OCS DCL-2021-06 Rental Assistance Call to Action FY2021

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Office of Community Services

Dear Colleague Letter

DCL#:                               OCS-DCL-2021-06

DATE:                               August 3, 2021

TO:                                    ACF Grantees

SUBJECT:                       Rental Assistance Call to Action

ATTACHMENT(S):        Attachment 1: Help for Renters Flyer (PDF)
                                             Attachment 2: Help for Landlords Flyer (PDF)
                                             Attachment 3: LIHEAP Public Outreach Flyer (PDF)

Dear Colleagues,

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Treasury to encourage tenants and landlords to take advantage of the Emergency Rental Assistance program (ERA) available through the American Rescue Plan Act.  The rental assistance under ERA will help cover rent, utilities, and other housing costs to keep residents in their homes.

We are asking all ACF grantees to encourage renters and landlords to take advantage of the relief available to them.  Please help us spread the word: rental assistance is available.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a new website that allows renters and landlords to find information on rental assistance in their area: consumerfinance.gov/renthelp Visit disclaimer page .  The CFPB website offers resources in English and Spanish to help renters and landlords access additional financial assistance related to housing costs.

The American Rescue Act Plan Act also includes $4.5 billion in additional Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding to help families and individuals with low incomes afford home heating and cooling costs, including help with paying bills, repairing or replacing heating/cooling equipment, and possibly weatherizing homes to lower bills.  From the federal perspective, households can get help with their energy bills through both LIHEAP and ERA. Individuals interested in applying for energy assistance can search for their local LIHEAP intake agency or office using HHS’ map of LIHEAP Local Agency Locations. Alternatively, they can contact the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) hotline at 1-866-674-6327. This hotline provides contact information based on the caller’s zip code.  Individuals  may also call OCS for assistance at (202) 401-9351.

ACF is also administering over $1 billion in funding to assist low-income households with drinking water and wastewater bills through the newly established Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). LIHWAP provides payments directly to public water utility providers, on behalf of low-income households, to reduce arrearages and rates paid for drinking water and wastewater services. Likewise, customers can get help with water bills from both LIHWAP and ERA.  Visit https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ocs/programs/lihwap for additional information. We anticipate LIHWAP grantees will begin administering benefits this fall.

ACF encourages grantees to design creative solutions that leverage, when possible, multiple funding sources to fully meet the needs of low-income households. In many cases grantees and subgrantees are likely administering more than one of these programs. We recommend you take full advantage of the opportunity to blend resources, as there are no ACF polices that preclude households from receiving benefits if they have received assistance through another program. 

For programs that your agency is not administering directly, we encourage you to reach out to the federal, state, and/or, local agency administering the program and identify ways to build partnerships and leverage resources to best support low-income households in need of rental assistance, energy assistance, and/or water and wastewater assistance, including providing households with information about other support services and facilitating  support to households from other programs.

Please share this information widely. Many families need housing assistance to maintain stability.  These resources can help families stay housed during these times of uncertainty.

Together, we can work to prevent evictions and to maintain access to energy and water utility services, which can benefit both renters and landlords.

Thank you for your attention to these matters. OCS looks forward to continuing to provide high-quality services to OCS grantees.

Dr. Lanikque Howard
Office of Community Services