Over the past week, several federal agencies released guidance for funding made available through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. Specifically, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued revised guidance for rental assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance program; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a notice on Emergency Housing Vouchers for people experiencing homelessness; the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance for the ARP Higher Education Emergency Relief funds, and the Office of Head Start issued guidance on use of ARP Head Start funding.  

We’ve summarized key takeaways for educators and service providers below.

U.S. Treasury Revised Guidance on Emergency Rental Assistance

On Friday, May 7, the Treasury Department issued new, strengthened guidance for ARP’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program, which provides nearly $45 billion to assist households that are unable to pay rent or utilities. Key takeaways from the Frequently Asked Questions include:

  • Funds may be used for the cost of a hotel or motel room for eligible households.
  • Funds through ARP ERA must be offered directly to renters when landlords do not accept direct payment. 
  • Programs must prohibit the eviction of renters for nonpayment in months for which they receive emergency rental assistance.
  • Programs may verify the income eligibility of renters using any reasonable fact-specific proxy, such as the average income in the neighborhood in which renters live.

Click here to find your state’s rental assistance program.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Emergency Housing Vouchers

On May 5, HUD issued a notice for $5 billion in ARP emergency housing vouchers for people who are experiencing homelessness (HUD definition) and who are “at risk of experiencing homelessness (ED’s definition of homelessness). The notice, and a preliminary list of which Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) will receive vouchers and how many, are on the HUD EHV page, here.

Key takeaways include:

  • HUD is requiring PHAs to take referrals for these emergency housing vouchers directly from the Continuum of Care’s (CoC) Coordinated Entry System. 
  • CoC partners may also support applicants through the application process and attend meetings with applicants and PHAs to aid individuals and families through the admissions process. 
  • PHAs are also required to formulate a menu of supportive services to assist EHV eligible families in addressing leasing challenges, which may include tenant-readiness services, housing search assistance, and assisting with associated costs for security/utility deposits, application fees, and other moving-related expenses. PHAs are strongly encouraged to consult with CoCs and other sources of referrals in determining the services it will provide to EHV eligible families.

U.S. Department of Education on ARP Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds

On May 11, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released new guidance on $39.6 billion in Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants provided by ARP. At least half of an institution’s allocation must be used to make emergency financial aid grants to students.

Key takeaways include:

  • An eligible student is defined as “any individual who is or was enrolled at an eligible institution on or after March 13, 2020, the date of declaration of the national emergency due to the coronavirus.” Therefore, it is no longer required that students be (or could be) Title IV-eligible.
  • Undocumented students, those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and international students are able to access the emergency grants.
  • If institutions do not use their Institutional Portion entirely for emergency financial grants to students, they must use a portion of funds to conduct direct outreach to financial aid applicants about the opportunity to receive a financial aid adjustment due to the recent unemployment of a family member or independent student, or other circumstances, including loss of housing resulting in homelessness.
  • “Direct outreach” requires an institution to actively engage aid applicants, and should be more than a “passive notification.

Allocations for public and non-profit institutions are available here.

Allocations for proprietary institutions are available here.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on use of ARP Head Start funding

On May 4, the Office of Head Start issued a program instruction on the $1 billion made available to Head Start programs under ARP. 

Key takeaways include:

  • All Head Start, Early Head Start, and Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership grantees are eligible to receive additional funds. Each grantee may apply for a proportionate amount of the $1 billion based on their total funded enrollment.
  • Grantees are encouraged to prioritize programs for rising kindergartners, children with disabilities, children experiencing food or housing insecurity, children that were not able to receive any in-person services this year, or other areas determined by community needs.
  • Grantees also are encouraged to reach more families, including through partnerships with local shelters and public schools to increase the enrollment of children experiencing homelessness.

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