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Biden COVID Rescue Plan

Today, President-elect Biden released summary information on his American Rescue Plan: Emergency Legislative Package to Fund Vaccinations, Provide Immediate, Direct Relief to Families Bearing the Brunt of the COVID-19 Crisis, and Support Struggling Communities.” This is the new Administration’s proposal for COVID relief. The package is wide-ranging, but here are some of the big ticket items:

  • Individual Assistance
    • Provide for an addition $1,400 in individual checks to complement the $600 provided through the COVID legislation passed at the end of 2020.
    • Extend and expand unemployment insurance benefits with a $400 per week supplement.
    • Extend financial assistance for workers who have exhausted their regular unemployment compensation benefits.
    • Extend financial assistance for unemployed workers who do not typically qualify for unemployment compensation benefits.
    • Fully fund states’ short-time compensation programs and additional weeks of benefits.
  • Housing
    • Extend the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums and continue applications for forbearance on federally-guaranteed mortgages until September 30, 2021.
    • Fund legal assistance for renters facing eviction or foreclosure.
    • Fund an additional $25 billion in rental assistance to provide much-needed rental relief, especially for low- and moderate-income households who have lost jobs or are out of the labor market.
    • Deliver $5 billion in emergency assistance to help secure housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
  • Labor/Family Support
    • Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
    • Expand child care assistance to help millions of families and help parents return to work.
    • Increase tax credits to help cover the cost of childcare.

The proposal contains a lot of individual financial assistance in addition to the $25 billion in additional rental assistance. This is crucial to reclaiming rent-in-arrears and supporting rent payments going forward. Of course, the extended eviction moratorium is very troubling and would be cataclysmic for the industry, especially our small and medium-sized owners. This will be the central focus of our advocacy efforts going forward.

A couple of notes on process. Since the Democrats won the runoff races in Georgia and took control of the Senate, there has been lots of speculation about them using a procedure called reconciliation to pass this stimulus bill. This process allows passage by simple majority, so Republican votes would not be needed in the Senate assuming all Democrats and Independents who caucus with them stayed together. This is how the 2017 tax law was passed. However, only policies that change spending or revenues can be included in reconciliation legislation, so it could be difficult to include the eviction and foreclosure moratoria. We are investigating this further.  I have seen reports tonight indicating that President-elect Biden wants to pass this stimulus package on a bipartisan basis, not using reconciliation. That means he needs 60 votes but then the budget impact requirement is not necessary and he could include the eviction moratorium. To do that means negotiating with the Republicans which of course changes the dynamic on all of this.

In his speech tonight explaining the proposal, the President-elect stated that next week he will be extending the CDC eviction order put in place by the Trump Administration. This was expected and we have been weighing in with the transition team on that. If the Democrats choose to use reconciliation for the larger legislative package, they could pull out the eviction moratorium and the President-elect could keep extending it by executive order. Recall that we have litigation pending already on the standing CDC order.

As you can see, there are many permutations of how this process could play out.

We are conducting a deeper analysis of the proposal and process now and developing our advocacy strategy. As always, that will include a significant role for all of you. More on that later.

 

Thanks and stay safe.

Gregory Scott Brown

Senior Vice President, Government Affairs

National Apartment Association