WASHINGTON – Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo delivered the following remarks at an event highlighting the Memphis and Shelby County Emergency Rental Assistance program as part of an American Rescue Plan Act anniversary tour.
As prepared for delivery
Thank you so much for hosting me today, and for all the work you all have done to keep your community safely housed during this challenging time —from distributing millions in emergency rental assistance to helping vulnerable households navigate the legal process to avoid eviction.
When President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law a year ago this week, this country faced a potential nationwide eviction crisis, especially for families of color. To alleviate this crisis, the Biden-Harris Administration expanded the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which made available $46 billion to help struggling renters and landlords. Over $25 billion of ERA assistance was spent or obligated through January 2022, and we expect the vast majority of the total $46 billion will be deployed to households or paid to grantees by the middle of 2022, thanks to a network of state and local grantees yours. In Memphis and Shelby County alone, over 16 thousand payments have been made to households totaling $43.1 million, keeping families in their homes and children in their schools.
At Treasury, we have worked hard alongside local grantees like yours to ensure this money is reaching those who need it most. To date, over 80 percent went to very low-income households, and 40% of all primary applicants receiving assistance self-identified as Black and more than 20% self-identified as Latino.
Memphis’s ERA program is a story about a community working to use its rental assistance dollars to achieve real results for families. When courts struck down the eviction moratorium in Memphis and the surrounding counties several months before the national ban lifted, there were real fears, raised by many of you in the audience, that you could see record rates of evictions. But using funding from the American Rescue Plan, Memphis and Shelby County worked together to stand up a new infrastructure for rental assistance that did not previously exist – a program that is now one of the strongest programs in the country, one that Treasury has used as an example of best practices to share with other grantees.
Now, one year after the ARP’s passage, although there is still work to be done, those efforts have helped to prevent the outcomes that once seemed inevitable. Based on its most recent data, Princeton’s Eviction Lab has found that eviction filings remain well below historical averages in Memphis. As of January, filings were down 32% from historical averages, and as of February 26, filings were down 56% in the month of February compared to historical averages.
Memphis has achieved these results by building a well-coordinated, innovative program that has engaged community partners to make the most of funding provided under the American Rescue plan, including working with a local nonprofit organization to provide legal services to tenants facing evictions and enlisting law school faculty and student volunteers, who I just had a chance to meet with. The City of Memphis and Shelby County’s joint eviction diversion program with the local court system is among the strongest in the nation and the collaboration with the law school to provide legal services is a model for others to follow.
Just as the City of Memphis and Shelby County have done here, state and local grantees across the country have used these funds to build a nationwide infrastructure to deliver rental assistance that did not exist prior to the pandemic, but that will continue to enable communities to serve households in need long after COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror. Now, it is time to build on these successes and continue the critical work of expanding the availability of affordable housing and fighting evictions. That’s why we continue to encourage cities and states to dedicate a portion of their money from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds—a $350 billion program under the American Rescue Plan—to continue to fund rental assistance and other eviction prevention programs.
Just as it did for renters, the pandemic also exacerbated the fear of going into deep debt and losing their homes for millions of homeowners. The American Rescue Plan set aside $10 billion to help these homeowners through the Homeowner Assistance Fund, including more than $168 million for Tennessee. These funds may be used for assistance with mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, and utility payments and prioritizes households that have experienced the greatest hardship.
I know much of this is not news to you. You are on the frontlines when it comes to keeping Americans in their homes—working make affordable housing available, to distribute emergency resources like ERA and HAF to households at risk of eviction or foreclosure, and developing the tools needed to continue to serve Americans in need going forward.
Let me close by again saying: Thank you. America’s households are in a far more stable and secure place because of the work you do each and every day.