Federal stimulus/budget bill has money for tenant representation

12/24/2020, Legislation, Housing - Evictions

There are three provisions of the December 2020 relief/omnibus bill passed by Congress that have implications for tenant representation.

  1. Rental assistance funding


The bill allocates $25 billion allocated for rental assistance.  90% of that must be spent on direct rental assistance, but the remaining 10% can be used for other purposes:


HOUSING STABILITY SERVICES — Not more than 10 percent of funds received by an eligible grantee from a payment made under this section may be used to provide eligible households with case management and other services related to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, as defined by the Secretaryintended to help keep households stably housed.


The Treasury Department will determine whether this 10% can include legal services to help tenants secure rental assistance and ensure the courts do not proceed while the rental assistance process is unfolding.  Several members of Congress, including Reps. Waters and Scanlon, testified that the intention was to include legal assistance in the definition.  


  1. $20 million in T-HUD budget


The NCCRC had worked previously with Rep. Clyburn’s office on a bill that would have appropriated funding for tenant representation.  That bill morphed into an attempt by their office to get $25 million into the T-HUD budget for tenant representation.  Ultimately, $20 million was included with the following language:


[A]n additional $20,000,000 (not subject to such section 106 [of the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968]), to remain available until September 30, 2023, shall be for competitive grants to nonprofit or governmental entities to provide legal assistance (including assistance related to pretrial activities, trial activities, post-trial activities and alternative dispute resolution) at no cost to eligible low-income tenants at risk of or subject to eviction:


Provided further, That in awarding grants under the preceding proviso, the Secretary shall give preference to applicants that include a marketing strategy for residents of areas with high rates of eviction, have experience providing no-cost legal assistance to low-income individuals, including those with limited English proficiency or disabilities, and have sufficient capacity to administer such assistance: Provided further, That the Secretary shall ensure, to the extent practicable, that the proportion of eligible tenants living in rural areas who will receive legal assistance with grant funds made available under this heading is not less than the overall proportion of eligible tenants who live in rural areas.


  1. Extension of CRF deadline


The deadline for using CRF funding has been extended all the way to Dec 31, 2021.  So for jurisdictions that are using CRF funding for legal representation, they now have more time to use the funding.  Additionally, there is a lot of unallocated CRF funding at the state level and it may now be possible to advocate for some of that to be used for legal representation.


The National Housing Law Project and National Low Income Housing Coalition have further analysis of the relief/omnibus bill.



The NCCRC worked with some of the members of Congress who achieved the inclusion of $20 million for tenant representation.