Powering Strong Communities

Treasury releases guidance tied to the $25 billion Emergency Rental Assistance program

The U.S. Department of Treasury on Jan. 19 released guidance for the implementation of a $25 billion Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program authorized as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

The American Public Power Association has strongly encouraged its members to reach out to their state (and city and county where those are eligible to receive such funds) to begin to help with the implementation of these programs.

The guidance released in the form of a list of “frequently asked questions” should help in that process. For example, the statute provides that ERA funds may be used for “utilities and home energy costs,” but does not define those terms.

Under the guidance released on Jan. 19, utilities include “separately-stated electricity, gas, water and sewer, trash removal and energy costs, such as fuel oil.”  It does not include telecommunication services (telephone, cable, Internet). Utilities that are covered by the landlord within rent will be treated as rent.

The guidance also clarified that grantees may structure a program to provide less than full coverage of arrears.

Moreover, the guidance emphasizes that grantees should structure programs to “best minimize any incentives for the non-payment of rent or utilities by potential beneficiaries of the program.”

Of particular importance to public power, the guidance also clarifies that a grantee does not need to provide assistance with respect to rent in order to provide assistance with respect to utility or energy costs.

Working with the National Energy and Utility Assistance Coalition and the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, APPA will work to keep track of jurisdictions setting up these programs by way of giving other public power utilities a template from which to work.