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NLIHC Releases New Report on Serving Native American Households Using Emergency Rental Assistance

New report explores lessons learned from high-spending ERA programs administered by Native American Tribes and Tribally Designated Housing Entities

Washington, DC – The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the United Native American Housing Association (UNAHA) released today a new report, Serving Native American Households Using ERA: Learning from High-Spending Programs. The report investigates the unique characteristics of high-spending emergency rental assistance (ERA) programs administered by Native American Tribes and Tribally Designated Housing Entities (TDHEs). 

“American Indian and Alaskan Native households in tribal areas are more likely than non-tribal households to face severe physical housing problems, such as inadequate heating and plumbing and high rates of overcrowding,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “The new report shows how Tribes and Tribally Designated Housing Entities were able to draw on emergency rental assistance to address these problems in new ways, while also extending unprecedented assistance to tribal members living outside tribal areas.”

As part of the $25 billion included by the U.S. Congress in the “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021” for the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA1) program, 301 Native American Tribes and Tribally Designated Housing Entities (TDHEs) received $800 million to assist low-income tribal members and residents of native lands. To learn about how the funds were used, NLIHC partnered with UNAHA, a regional association of 34 TDHEs managing and disbursing ERA1 funds in North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Nebraska. UNAHA provided insight into member tribes that had successfully spent down their initial ERA1 allocations and received additional rounds of reallocated ERA1 funds.

Despite challenges including limited rental housing, low administrative capacity, a short spending timeline, and in many cases small ERA allocations, Tribes and TDHEs had varying levels of success in administering their ERA programs. More than half of the initial ERA1 allocation to Tribes and TDHEs – approximately $411.6 million – had been spent by March 2022, and nearly two of every five tribal grantees received additional funds between September 2021 and April 2022 through reallocation, indicating that these grantees had spent a large portion of their initial funds.

The new report finds that high-spending Tribes and TDHEs adopted a number of strategies to effectively distribute rental assistance and serve low-income Native American households. TDHEs used ERA to temporarily address overcrowding – a long-standing issue on native lands – by covering a combination of relocation expenses, security deposits, and three months of future rent. Administrators also worked with local hotels and motels to temporarily house people experiencing homelessness or overcrowding and help them transition to more stable housing in the long term.

Unlike most other federally funded housing programs for Native American communities, ERA also allowed TDHEs to take advantage of available resources to serve non-tribal members on native lands, as well as previously underserved Native American members living outside their standard service areas. TDHEs leveraged existing relationships and created new partnerships to conduct outreach to Native American households around the country, and administrators utilized many of the Treasury ERA program’s documentation flexibilities, such as self-attestation, to promote application accessibility.

The report concludes that while ERA successfully mitigated some of the financial shock experienced by Native Americans as a result of the pandemic, implementation of the program has also made clear the need for long-term financial support for those living both on and off native lands.

Read the report at:

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