Following months of gridlock, top lawmakers from both parties on Monday agreed on a new $900 billion relief package, ending a stalemate that began shortly after an earlier cash infusion back in April.

The deal includes downsized versions of many of the same provisions passed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as an emergency $25 billion in rental assistance. The president must now sign the bill.

Diane Yentel | Photo credit: National Low Income Housing Coalition

The stimulus package — part of a $2.5 trillion spending bill — includes, among other protections, a one-month extension of the Centers for Disease Control’s eviction moratorium, a $600 stimulus check for qualifying individuals, expanded unemployment benefits that boost the state-led aid by $300 per week and more money for the Paycheck Protection Program.

It also includes $25 billion for rental assistance, with each state receiving a minimum of $200 million, according to Diane Yentel, the president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“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,” Yentel said in a statement. “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.”

At least 90 percent of the money is required to be used to provide financial assistance in the form of back and forward rent, utility payments and other housing expenses, according to Yentel, who broke down the protections in a thread, on Twitter.

Landlords and property owners can apply for assistance on the behalf of a tenant, but the tenant must co-sign and the funds must be used to cover that tenant’s rent.

The $25 billion in rental assistance won’t cover the estimated $70 billion in back rent owed by renters, according to Yentel, who is also calling on Congress to get back to work in January on a more comprehensive solution.

The National Association of Realtors has been one of many voices long-advocating for the inclusion of rental assistance in any stimulus package. An estimated 38 percent of NAR’s 1.4-million members own at least one rental property, according to the association.

“NAR has been one of the loudest voices in Washington advocating for rental assistance these past few months,” NAR President Charlie Oppler, said in a statement. “While Realtors worked to ensure thousands of American families would not go homeless, it was clear that broad, ongoing eviction moratoriums were jeopardizing the very housing opportunities we were trying to protect.”

While the deal does include $600 stimulus checks, the rental assistance package and eviction moratorium is likely the biggest headline for the real estate industry. The $1,200 checks sent earlier this year actually made little difference for renters, according to a May study from Apartment List. 

The deal comes as the country’s eviction moratorium was set to expire, which could have left as many as 40 million renters exposed to the risk of eviction at the end of the month, at a time when unemployment is trending back in the wrong direction.

Despite the federal ban on evictions, landlords have filed as many as 150,000 eviction cases since the start of the pandemic, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab.

The $600 stimulus check — the full amount of which is available for individuals making $75,000 or less in gross income and couples pulling in less than $150,000 — could be deposited into Americans’ accounts by the end of the year, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Monday morning on CNBC.

The stimulus package is part of a larger multi-trillion deal to keep the government funded.

Email Patrick Kearns

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