Privacy Requirements under COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance ProgramMany relief programs have been implemented over the past year in response to COVID-19, and keeping up with the changing requirements for these programs can be daunting. A new twist in the requirements is the mandate for implementation of privacy requirements under the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Here are some details about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and how to ensure compliance with the privacy requirements.

What is the Emergency Rental Assistance Program?

On December 27, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 was enacted that contained provisions for coronavirus response and relief. The act called for $25 billion in rental assistance to be distributed by states, U.S. territories, certain local governments, Indian tribes, and other governing bodies (grantees) that apply for funds through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The funds are specifically allocated for rent and utility assistance and housing expenses incurred due to COVID-19. Eligible households meeting certain requirements can receive up to 15 months of assistance for rent and other expenses covered under the program. The list of eligible grantees and additional information can be found on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program website of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

What are the privacy requirements?

Each grantee is required to (1) establish data privacy and security requirements with appropriate measures to ensure the protection of the privacy of the individuals and households, (2) provide that the information collected, including any personally identifiable information, is collected and used only for submitting reports to the federal government, and (3) provide confidentiality protections for data collected about any individuals who are survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault or stalking.

How are landlords affected?

Provided certain requirements are followed, landlords or owners of residential dwellings can apply for rental assistance from the grantees on behalf of their renters or can assist renters in applying for assistance. Landlords need to be aware that the grantees most likely will have specific privacy requirements that they will need to abide by when handling the information of its renters. Since the Emergency Rental Assistance Program privacy requirements will be implemented by multiple different government entities, there will likely be variations in requirements. Therefore, vigilance is needed to ensure compliance.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program is currently being rolled out. We will update you in the upcoming weeks and months as to additional guidance on the implementation of these privacy requirements.