The HEROES ACT was first introduced in May of this year as a way of providing emergency financial assistance to Americans affected by the global pandemic known as Coronavirus or COVID-19. HEROES, an acronym for Health and Economic 6 Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, is a lengthy 1,800-page document dedicated to economic relief. Under this act, the American People can receive:
- Stimulus Payments
- Hazard Pay
- Rental Assistance
- Mortgage Assistance
- Student Loan Forgiveness
- Unemployment Benefits
- Food Assistance
- Health Insurance Premium Packages for the 30 million + newly unemployed citizens of the United States and much more
Why We Need HEROES
In times of crisis, heroes are always waiting in the wings. This act would bring relief to the working Americans, many of whom have been on the front lines during the pandemic and have now lost their jobs and run the risk of losing their homes as well. If you’ve been following the data trail, you’re well aware that even prior to the onset of the Coronavirus, almost ten million working Americans were severely rent burdened. This means they paid over 50% of their income in rent alone. As unemployment swelters to startling highs and moratoriums on evictions are lifted, we face the possibility of an avalanche of evictions.
Homelessness is a very real problem in the United States. Affordable housing is scarce and wages have consistently fallen short of rent and mortgage increases. The HEROES Act can help prevent an increase in national homelessness. Homelessness is not merely a moral or economic issue. It is also a public health crisis in and of itself. The prospect of an increased homeless population at this time could mean the second wave of COVID-19 would hit even harder than the first. Vicious cycles are common in the homeless sector. This is why prevention is the best tactic in providing both housing and healthcare.
Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization: A Bill Within the HEROES Act
While the HEROES Act has been in circulation for months, the bill comprises several acts that are in need of support on an individual and congressional level. One such bill is the Emergency Rental Assistance Bill, which would provide funds to people experiencing homelessness and people who are currently at risk of homelessness in the near future. This bill currently boasts 156 cosponsors in the House and 39 in the Senate. You might have seen it under the hashtag #RentReliefNow. Below, you will find a brief overview of the key notes related to this bill:
- The bill consists of $100 billion in rental assistance funding
- At least 70% of the funding is reserved for families with income that falls below 50% of the Area Median Income
- The bill would also provide short and medium term rental assistance creating a generous grace period for renters who have fallen behind on their bills
- A portion of the funding would be distributed among Indigenous communities, a group that is all too often left out in terms of government assistance
- Up to one quarter of the funding may also be used toward relocation or stabilization. If vulnerable individuals need to relocate or renew their lease it could be used to cover security deposits, moving expenses, first and last month’s rent, and applicable fees.
- The bill would also aid in other burdens associated with late or missed payments such as credit repair, case management, and obtaining legal representation as moratoriums are lifted and eviction cases resume.
A full break-down of coverage is available online via the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s PDF file.
Vocal and Political Support is Pivotal in Keeping this Bill on the Table
More than 30 homeless advocacy organizations, including Invisible People, support this bill. However, without individual and political support, it could become a distant thought that never transpires into action.
The rent freeze managed to tide many newly unemployed Americans over. Yet, even in the midst of the national shutdown, some landlords found loopholes or blatantly broke the law in order to evict their tenants. Now, as these freezes are lifted, housing advocates and experts foresee an unprecedented eviction crisis in the very near future. Families and individuals adversely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic need a more permanent solution in the form of rental assistance. Merely delaying the inevitable is not an option when it runs the risk of thrusting tens of millions of Americans into homelessness – a sector that is already financially and socially strained.
We are severely lacking in the market of affordable housing. Shelters are overcrowded and underfunded. The conditions under which most homeless people are forced to suffer have been likened to the conditions seen in third-world countries and the Middle Ages. In fact, the homeless crisis has already resurrected plagues from the Dark Ages, due to the lack of hygiene in shelters and other makeshift living spaces.
We urge you to express your support of the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act and to contact your local representatives to do the same.
As of late, the following Senators are still missing as cosponsors of this legislation:
- Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington (Democrat)
- Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware (Democrat)
- Sen. Doug Jones, Alabama (Democrat)
- Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia (Democrat)
- Sen. Jon Tester, Montana (Democrat)
- Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia (Democrat)
If you reside in their districts, we urge you to reach out and ask them to CoSponsor the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act. In addition, ask your Republican representatives to show their support of the Rental Assistance Bill. The hashtag #RentReliefNow is one you can follow and/or promote as a way of endorsing this needed legislation.