Merkley, Wyden, Colleagues Announce Legislation to Help Renters During the Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with 24 of their colleagues in the Senate, have announced new legislation—the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020—to assist renters amid the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

The legislation would establish an Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which would provide $100 billion in emergency rental assistance to help families and individuals pay their rent during and after the pandemic. Stabilizing renters and the rental market throughout the public health emergency will help preserve the housing economy and keep families in their homes.

“Oregon’s housing crisis predates the pandemic, but this public health emergency is making it even more urgent,” said Merkley. “Every Oregonian—regardless of the color of their skin, where they live, or where they work—needs to be able to keep a roof over their head in order to stay home, protect themselves, and protect their community. This legislation would provide the critical lifeline so many families need to make that happen, because everybody deserves a safe, affordable place to call home.”

“The foundation of America’s housing policy has required real repair long before the added economic sledgehammer of this public health crisis,” Wyden said. “This bill is an essential piece of the blueprint so urgently needed now and in the future to help renters in Oregon and nationwide make the rent, cover their utility bills and stay safe in their homes.”

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Authorize $100 billion for an Emergency Rental Assistance program to help families and individuals pay their rent and utility bills and remain housed during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The program would send funds to communities, states, and tribes through an existing federal temporary rental assistance program to facilitate the rapid distribution of funds through an already-available administrative and reporting system.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that nearly 100,000 extremely low-income Oregonians pay more than half their income in rent each month.

In addition to Merkley and Wyden, the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act is cosponsored U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Michael F. Bennet (D-CO).