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Congress Considers COVID Phase 4 – Outlook and NAA Action

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives return from their July 4 recess next week, and negotiations will begin in earnest on the next legislative package addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Even ahead of their official return, Republicans in the Senate are already drafting an initial legislative offering, to be previewed for their caucus next Tuesday before sitting down with Senate Democrats. For the Democrats, the $3 Trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act that passed out of the House last month is their starting point for negotiations. That legislation included a $100 Billion emergency rental assistance program, expanded mortgage forbearance for multifamily owners and substantially more federal housing dollars. Unfortunately, it also included a 12-month extension of the eviction moratorium that was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARESAct, passed in late March.

Senate Republican leaders declared the HEROES Act dead-on-arrival after it passed the House, citing cost and policy concerns. Little has been revealed so far as to the Republicans’ thinking on what should and should not be included in phase 4 legislation, except for liability protection for business from COVID-19-related litigation. Other possible components could be incentives for schools who reopen in the fall and a “bonus payment” for employees returning to work that would replace the $600 unemployment insurance increase established in the CARES Act. To date, there has been no indication from Republican leaders as to what their legislative proffer may include as it relates to housing.

Since the passage of the CARES Act, the National Apartment Association (NAA) has aggressively promoted the concept of robust rental assistance as the answer to the housing crisis facing Americans who are unable to pay their rent because of COVID-19. We have aggressively urged Congress not to extend the CARES Act eviction moratorium, as it does nothing to address the underlying challenges facing the nation’s renters and will bring immense harm to the rental housing industry.

In response to the pending Senate deliberations, NAA launched a grassroots alert – our third since the crisis began – that is open to any member of the apartment industry and stresses the need for robust rental assistance and not an extension of the federal eviction moratorium. You can find the alert and take action, and please share it with your colleagues and friends in the industry.

This is the last COVID-19 relief package that Congress will consider before the election, and the last opportunity for the apartment industry to make its voice heard. We need everyone to do their part in telling Congress that the apartment industry’s long-term viability depends on direct rental assistance, not an eviction moratorium.