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Congress Agrees on Latest Stimulus Bill: Some Relief for Renters

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In the same month that just 79% of New York City renters paid their monthly rent as of December 14, Congress approved a second round of COVID-19 relief legislation that will provide some assistance to renters nationwide.

The latest $900 billion stimulus bill includes $600 in direct check payments to some and $300 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits for those that qualify. Also up for grabs are $284 billion in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loan funds, part of an effort to help boost small businesses. The bill also includes $25 billion in emergency rental assistance and extends a moratorium on evictions – that were set to expire at the end of 2020 –  by one month.

Individual Benefits Will Help Renters

According to The Wall Street Journal, the legislation adds $300 to weekly unemployment payments for 11 weeks and extends two other unemployment programs until they begin phasing out in mid-March and end in early April 2021. Those two programs expand who qualifies for unemployment benefits and extend their duration.

The direct payment checks are expected to be $600 per adult and $600 per child up to age 16, with the amounts decreasing for individuals with more than $75,000 in income and $150,000 for couples.

Lawmakers Indicate More Relief May Be in the Future

“This agreement is far from perfect, but it will deliver emergency relief to a nation in the throes of a genuine emergency,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said on the Senate floor.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added, “This emergency relief bill is an important initial step.”

In a signal that more relief would be coming in 2021, President-Elect Biden stated, “I am heartened to see members of Congress heed that message, reach across the aisle, and work together. But this action in the lame-duck session is just the beginning. Our work is far from over.”

Real estate industry advocates agree that more relief is needed. David Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference, is quoted in Marketwatch, “The $25 billion in emergency rental assistance is a band-aid on a wider problem…the bill is a practical start for staving off the immediate threat of mass evictions across the country.”

“While extending the CDC eviction moratorium for just one month is insufficient to keep people housed for the duration of the pandemic, the extension provides essential and immediate protection for millions of renters on the verge of losing their homes in January. Extending the moratorium through January provides time for emergency rental assistance to be distributed, and for President-elect Biden to improve and further extend the moratorium immediately after being sworn into office,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said, in a statement issued on December 20.

On December 27, President Trump signed the relief bill into law, and also prompted new discussions within Congress for additional direct payments of $2,000.

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