Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) Organizational Sign-On Letter
Please use the form below to have your organization sign on to an advocacy letter to key leaders from the Massachusetts Legislature and the Baker Administration. This effort is being coordinated by the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, and Homes for All Massachusetts. Please share this link with others in your network: https://tinyurl.com/erap-sign-on. If you have questions, please send them to kelly@mahomeless.org.

We sent the letter on Monday, December 20th. We are keeping the sign-on form open to build up the list of endorsers for ongoing advocacy on ERAP and to share in follow-up meetings with legislators and members of the Administration.

** If you are not part of an organization or are part of an organization that cannot sign on at this time, please email kelly@mahomeless.org to be informed about next steps in this campaign. **

The text of the organizational sign-on letter (without footnotes) and sign-on form are included below. The full letter with footnotes and signatures can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/erap-letter-pdf

December 20, 2021

Senate President Karen Spilka
Speaker of the House Ronald Mariano
Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Michael Rodrigues
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Aaron Michlewitz
Members of the Massachusetts Legislature
Governor Charlie Baker
Secretary Mike Kennealy, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox, Department of Housing and Community Development

Re: Take immediate action to allocate additional funding for emergency rental assistance instead of curtailing benefits

Dear Senate President Spilka, Speaker Mariano, Chairperson Rodrigues, Chairperson Michlewitz, Members of the Legislature, Governor Baker, Secretary Kennealy, Undersecretary Maddox:

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) provides critical emergency rent and utility funds to Massachusetts families and individuals dealing with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. ERAP is a program of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the bulk of funds awarded for Massachusetts residents are administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) through the network of regional administering agencies. The Baker Administration has begun notifying stakeholders that ERAP is projected to run out of funds in just over six months, and that in response, DHCD will begin to wind down key portions of ERAP.

We are alarmed that the state has abruptly decided to ramp down ERAP instead of allocating additional — and available — federal funds to continue this critical emergency assistance. At a time when application numbers are increasing, these changes will place additional burdens on families and individuals already in crisis due to the pandemic. These changes are being implemented on a very short timeline amidst another winter COVID-19 surge, without input from community stakeholders or notice to households counting on assistance to remain in their homes. We are asking you to leverage resources that were provided to the Commonwealth specifically for COVID relief and continue to allocate these critical funds to households in need while minimizing bureaucratic barriers to obtaining funds.

While DHCD is moving forward with multiple, unanticipated changes to ERAP, three policy changes in particular represent a fundamental shift in ERAP eligibility: (1) the recertification process will be eliminated as of January 1, 2022; (2) most tenants will be unable to apply for future rent assistance from ERAP or the parallel state-funded homelessness prevention program, Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), unless they have already fallen behind on rent; and (3) tenants will not be able to use RAFT after exhausting ERAP benefits.

At the same time, DHCD is planning to implement a decreased cap on RAFT benefits, as required by the Legislature’s language from the FY22 budget. As of January 1, 2022, households only will be eligible for $7,000 in RAFT assistance in a 12-month period, down from the current $10,000 cap. Like the planned ERAP changes, this restriction on RAFT benefits is ill-timed, and will lead to further housing instability at a time of heightened need.

These significant policy changes will add further confusion to an already complex process, causing more applications to “slip through the cracks” and further destabilizing families over the holidays. Taken together, these changes are likely to lead to an increase in eviction filings and displacement. With so much money available for emergency relief, moving forward with these changes would be a disgraceful and unnecessary outcome.

We must not allow the most vulnerable members of our community to suffer when we have the means to prevent it. We call upon the Legislature to take emergency action to access resources from the $2.25 billion remaining from the state’s allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) fiscal recovery funds to replenish ERAP and eliminate arbitrary barriers to access, while also restoring the RAFT cap to $10,000. We also call upon the Baker Administration to cease implementation of these disruptive ERAP policy changes.

During yet another frightening surge of the virus, where positive infection rates have matched January 2021 levels and are increasing, families with children, unaccompanied adults, elders, youth, people with disabilities, and other households at risk of losing their housing must be at the top of our list of urgent priorities.  

We look forward to working with you to further promote housing stability, equity, and public health.

Sincerely,

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