The COVID-19 relief bill and what it means for affordable housing

The COVID-19 relief bill and what it means for affordable housing

On January 14, 2021, then President-elect Joe Biden outlined a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, urging its quick consideration and expressing his desire to work on a bipartisan basis. His plan drew criticism from a number of Republicans who questioned both the cost of the President’s proposal and the need for additional legislation so soon after the December 27, 2020 enactment of a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill. Despite discussions between the White House and a group of Senate Republicans, there was no meeting of the minds on a bipartisan path forward.

Without prospects for Republican support, the Biden Administration and congressional Democrats elected to use the budget reconciliation process to push out COVID-19 relief as quickly as possible. Budget reconciliation allows the Senate to expedite and pass a bill by a simple majority instead of the 60 votes generally needed to advance legislation in the Senate. To use budget reconciliation, Congress must first approve a budget resolution that includes instructions to congressional committees to craft legislation that either increases or decreases the deficit. On February 5th, Congress approved a Fiscal Year 2021 budget that authorized Congress to increase the deficit by up to $1.9 trillion over the next 10 years. The budget reconciliation instructions directed certain committees to develop legislation that would achieve the budgetary goal over the specified period of time.

This week, the designated House committees are marking up their respective reconciliation packages and will report their recommendations to the House Budget Committee. The Budget Committee will then consolidate the various components into a single bill for floor consideration. The full House could vote on the bill as early as the week of February 22nd. House and Senate Democratic leaders have set a mid-March goal for sending the bill to President Biden’s desk.

Under the budget resolution, the House Financial Services Committee was instructed to “submit changes in laws within its jurisdiction to increase the deficit by not more than $75,000,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2021 through 2030.” We wanted to bring to your attention the important Emergency Rental Assistance provisions that the House Financial Services Committee is considering at its February 10th markup. The $25 billion package includes:

· $19.05 billion in funding to the Department of Treasury for emergency rental and utility assistance that would be allocated to states, territories, counties, and cities to help stabilize renters during the coronavirus pandemic, and help rental property owners of all sizes continue to cover their costs.

· $5 billion for emergency Housing Choice Vouchers to transition people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, and victims of human trafficking to stable housing.

· $100 million to support unassisted households living in USDA-subsidized properties and who are struggling to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic.

· $750 million to support the Indian Housing Block Grant program and the Indian Community Development Block Grant program to help Alaska Natives, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians respond to pressing housing needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

· $100 million in funding for NeighborWorks to support housing counseling services that help renters, people experiencing homelessness, people at risk of homelessness, and homeowners navigate their housing options and rights, including protections and resources provided through coronavirus relief legislation.

Once Congress passes this important COVID-19 relief package, we are hopeful it will quickly turn to an infrastructure bill or other legislation that could accommodate our affordable housing agenda. We are working with Capitol Hill, the Administration, and our industry partners to lay the groundwork, and our champions are putting the final touches on the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act for reintroduction in the current Congress. As we reported earlier, we expect the bill to be largely the same as what was introduced in the 116th Congress with a significant addition as it will likely include a reduction in the 50% test.

We will alert you when the bill is approaching reintroduction and get everyone geared up to seek strong bipartisan cosponsorship in the House and Senate.

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