Owners turn to software and services for ERAP distribution


Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Faced with the daunting challenge of reviewing applications, approving applications, and scattering billions of dollars in federal funding to help residents and landlords catch up with unpaid rents linked to the pandemic, many states and local governments are turning to software vendors, emergency management companies and consultancies. service companies to help them meet the requirements of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

“One size doesn’t fit all and every jurisdiction is a little different,” said Frank Banda, Managing Partner, Public Sector at CohnReznick, a professional services firm offering ERAP review, quality control, compliance monitoring and case management assistance in multiple states including Connecticut, Texas and Louisiana.

Under the $ 25 billion ERAP, approved in December as part of the $ 900 billion Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021, each state receives at least $ 200 million. Funding can exceed $ 1 billion or $ 2 billion for larger states like New York and California. As part of each state’s total allocation, local governments and counties over 200,000 people also receive funding for rent and utilities, including New York City ($ 287.3 million ), Los Angeles County ($ 160 million), and the City of Los Angeles ($ 118.3 million.) Funds are provided directly to the District of Columbia, United States Territories, Indian Tribes, housing entities designated by Indian tribes and the Department of Hawaiian Lands.

This first installment of federal funding does not include the $ 21.5 billion for ERAP and $ 5 billion in rental assistance bonds under the US bailout law of 1.9. trillion dollars approved earlier this month. Information on the allocation of these funds was not disclosed.

How much are the states and the District of Columbia expected to receive under the Emergency Rental Assistance Program established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021, which was approved and enacted in December 2020. Source: United States Department of the Treasury, Emergency Rental Assistance Program

The ERAP will provide up to 12 months of rental and utility assistance to eligible households that owe rent and utility payments incurred after March 13, 2020, due to the pandemic. Once rent and utility arrears are reduced, future rent and utility payments of up to three months at a time can be considered. If a resident in arrears does not apply, a landlord can but must have the tenant’s permission and documents.

Banda said the first request for help came from Connecticut, which received more than $ 235 million in the December pandemic relief bill. Seila Mosquera-Bruno, commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Housing, said more than $ 220 million is for direct aid. Mosquera-Bruno said DOH contracted CohnReznick for consulting services, including accounting and auditing, and turned to Yardi, who launched their Rent Relief software platform in early February, for a solution. technological.

“In large part, Yardi’s extensive experience in the housing industry and property management was a determining factor in the final selection,” Mosquera-Bruno said in a statement provided to Multi-housing news.

Chris Voss, VP of Affordable Housing and PHA at Yardi, said Rent Relief is “a true end-to-end solution” which is a platform that is easy to use and quick to implement. The cloud-based software was built on top of Yardi’s RentCafé software and Yardi’s Voyager payment processing capabilities, he said.

“We weren’t starting from scratch. We were leveraging our decades of experience building software for the real estate industry and our platform which was already processing billions of dollars in funds each month and accepting hundreds of thousands of applications, ”said Voss. MHN.

He said nine agencies, state and local governments were working with Yardi Rent Relief in March. Voss said the platform is designed with flexibility to respond to any upcoming rule changes, which is likely to occur as the Treasury Department issues ERAP guidelines for funding under American Rescue. Plan Act. The software is also designed for clients to choose specific services such as case management or payment processing, Voss said.

More turnkey solutions

Neighborly Software, which for several years provided turnkey cloud-based solutions for housing, economic development and community programs, quickly pivoted last year after the CARES (Aid, Relief and Economic Security) law $ 2.2 trillion was approved and was processing customer requests. in early April, said Jason Rusnak, president and co-founder of Neighbourly.

Rusnak said last year that governments were caught off guard and rushed to find staff to administer the programs. One of the biggest differences between 2020 and 2021, he said, is that they realize it’s not sustainable and are looking for professional technology and services. Neighbourly has developed relationships with several companies such as Tetra Tech, a consulting and engineering company; Horne LLP, a CPA and business consulting firm; and CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA), a professional services network, as part of its ERAP offerings.

Neighborly learned from her early experiences with the CARES Act, Rusnak said. Keeping the process simple is essential, he said, noting that at least 50% of people will file their claims with their phones and will need to take photos and upload documents.

The company has 49 PIU customers and expects to add 10 to 15 more over the next month. Rusnak, who said they currently have statewide contracts in California, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama and Colorado, said they can be up and running with a custom portal within five days after obtaining a contract.

Larger cities and counties with more than 200,000 inhabitants receive funds. Source: United States Department of the Treasury, Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Unqork is another technology company providing a turnkey solution for state and local governments to manage and distribute ERAP funding quickly and securely. The company, which has developed a code-free platform that helps businesses and other entities build custom software without creating code, launched Unqork Rent Relief to provide governments with end-to-end automated workflows, preselection at award determination and completion. It can integrate seamlessly with existing databases and systems as well as third-party applications for identity validation, payment processing and other services.

Cas Holloway, head of state-owned enterprises at Unqork and former deputy mayor of New York City operations, said Unqork’s codeless platform lends itself to the customization that will be necessary for the current needs of each jurisdiction and can also be adapted to future changes.

At the end of March, the company was working on around 10 ERAP projects, including at least one statewide, multi-county, and one of the top five cities. Holloway declined to say which one but noted that it was not New York City.

Unqork has partnered with Witt O’Brien’s, a crisis and emergency services consultancy, on several offers, but does not have an exclusive deal. Holloway said he has known Brad Gair, managing director and general manager of Witt O’Brien, for many years. It was Gair who called Holloway at the end of last year and said state and local governments would need more specific solutions to process payments and meet upcoming Treasury Department guidelines in programs. financing 2021.

“This is turning out to be a huge amount of work for the jurisdictions,” said Gair, citing five key segments for the implementation of the program – overall management, outreach and marketing, preparation of requests and documentation, management of the center. appeals, review and processing of payments – which could prove overwhelming for governments as well as for the community organizations they used for aid programs.

Matthew Erchull, Managing Director of Witt O’Brien, also insisted on flexibility in designing programs for each client. He said some jurisdictions might not have enough funds to meet the needs of their communities and would need help prioritizing applicants such as those with a regional median income (MAI) below 50% or unemployed. for over 90 days. The PIU will provide rental assistance for people whose household income reaches up to 80% of the MAI.

Erchull said he anticipates the changes that will need to be made once the guidelines for ERAP 2.0, as he said, are established and how jurisdictions can spend the money in the second tranche of aid. rent and housing.


Comments are closed.