The Terner Center released a report analyzing the geography of Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) disbursement and where local capacity gaps may be hindering the ERA Take-Up Rate, a measure of the number of ERA payments divided by the number of very low-income renter households (i.e. households with incomes of 50 percent or less of the Area Median Income). The study also analyzed the presence of local nonprofits and public agencies, which could be another indicator of local institutional capacity to help distribute ERA funds.
Findings suggest that among the 1,200 counties evaluated, those with higher ERA take-up rates also had steeper job losses, higher shares of renter households, and more residents of color. These findings also possibly suggest that communities hit harder by the economic impacts of the pandemic are seeing relatively more take-up of state-administered ERA. Likewise, the report summarizes that local institutional capacity was less robust, on average, in counties with lower take-up of state-administered ERA, especially in counties that were already struggling before the pandemic. Interestingly, 47% of counties that scored in the upper quartile for state-administered ERA take-up had a voucher-administering PHA. Researchers conclude that these numbers suggest that counties with some experience and familiarity with administering federal housing programs fared relatively better on state-administered ERA take-up rates. However, the report further suggests that these findings may not tell the full story of the influence of PHAs on ERA distribution, because the extent to which PHAs are playing a role in ERA distribution is not fully known.
The Terner Center is planning to release a companion analysis that draws on a series of stakeholder interviews with state, county, and municipal officials, as well as nonprofit intermediaries working to administer federal housing programs and address capacity gaps within and across local jurisdictions.