The Short-Term Benefits of Emergency Rental Assistance

Whitney Airgood-Obrycki

The Emergency Rental Assistance program provides unprecedented support for renters facing hardships who are unable to pay their rent or utilities. While the implicit rationale of the program is to help renters get caught up on payments and prevent evictions, there are other potential short-term benefits beyond housing stability, including improved financial well-being and mental health. This paper uses the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey to investigate the potential short-term benefits of ERA receipt. Comparing ERA recipients with ERA applicants, it finds that ERA is associated with a lower likelihood of being behind on rent, having difficulty meeting expenses, or reporting poor mental health. The benefits of ERA on renter households’ housing stability, financial well-being, and mental health point to the importance of ongoing support as funding begins to run out. Even as the immediate shock of the pandemic wanes, large shares of renters continue to report employment loss and difficulty paying rent, highlighting the need for continued rental assistance.