A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

Summary of the Coronavirus Aid Packages: What Philanthropy Needs to Know

Last updated March 16, 2021

Relief Packages Updates

Second Allocation of Emergency Rental Assistance and New Guidance
May 2021

The US Department of Treasury released the second allocation of Emergency Rental Assistance on May 7, 2021, along with new guidance on improvements to ensure that ERA reaches the lowest-income and most marginalized people in need.


What's In the American Rescue Plan
March 2021

Organizers and advocates around the country secured historic investments in the American Rescue Plan Act.

These investments by Congress are the result of strategic investments by philanthropy in advocacy, policy, and organizing at the national and local level. It is imperative that funders not lose focus on pursuing liberation through justice-centered approaches. We must continue to boldly and fearlessly move power to people and decolonize our grantmaking and relationships. Philanthropy must continue to resource organizations, communities, and movements that push for anti-racist policies and reimagine systems rooted in racial justice.

The American Rescue Plan is wide-reaching and will support millions of people in the United States. The bill provides cash assistance, additional unemployment benefits, and expands the child tax credit in hopes of alleviating poverty, if temporarily. The Plan invests in public health and Medicaid, education, commerce and transportation, as well as in a variety of programs for low-income households, including:

  • Targeted Housing Choice Vouchers: $5 billion was provided for tenant-based rental assistance for households who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness; fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual assault, or human trafficking; and those who have recently experienced homelessness and need support to regain housing stability.

  • Native American and Hawaiian Communities: $750 million was provided for Native American Housing Block Grants and Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grants (totaling $455 million), Indian Community Development Block Grants ($280 million), and technical assistance ($10 million), in addition to $5 million for administrative costs.

  • Homeless Services funding through the HOME Program: $5 billion was allocated to fund supportive services, developing non-congregate shelter units and affordable permanent housing, all specifically targeted to individuals and families at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

  • Services and Supports for Children and Youth: $800 million was allocated to the Department of Education to provide wrap-around services and assistance to children and youth experiencing homelessness.

  • Rental Assistance: $21.55 billion was allocated for rental assistance prioritized for households with income totalling less than 50% of the Area Median Income, and those who have lost employment and have been unemployed for 90 days or more.
    • There are set-asides for “high need” communities based on income levels, housing quality, and housing costs ($2.5 billion); Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa ($305 million total).
    • Separately, $100 million was allocated for rental assistance for households living in USDA-financed properties in rural communities.

The American Rescue Plan Act also includes funding for fair housing organizations’ operations, foreclosure prevention through the Homeowner Assistance Fund, housing counseling services, rural homeownership assistance, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and home and community-based services among other critical supports for low-income households. You can find more detail about the bill by viewing our partner's resources: National Low Income Housing Coalition fact sheet on housing and homelessness assistance included in the bill and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' analysis on the bill's housing assistance that will prevent evictions and help people experiencing homelessness.


Bipartisan Emergency COVID Relief Act of 2020
December 2020

After many starts and set-backs, on December 27, 2020, the Bipartisan Emergency COVID Relief Act was signed into law. While the bill was to act as emergency funding to for communities who were struggling during the on-going pandemic and was tied to the larger omnibus , it included no resources for homelessness assistance. However, it did include:

  • $25 billion in emergency rental assistance
  • An extension of the CDC eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021
  • An extension of the deadline to use Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to December 31, 2021

For more information on what the bill includes, see this analysis from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  


What’s In the CARES Act Package
March 2020

In late March, Congress reached a bipartisan agreement on a $6 trillion package, including $2 trillion in direct spending, to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, called the CARES Act. Thanks to the advocacy and hard work of many, more than $12 billion for HUD programs was included in the bill.

Partners have said philanthropy's voice made a difference in pushing for and securing the critical homelessness and housing funds and advocates are grateful for the ways funders stepped up and supported the call to action.

Highlights of the aid package include:

  • $4 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG)
  • $5 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
  • $1.25 billion for the Housing Choice Voucher program (section 8)
  • $1 billion for project based rental assistance
  • $685 million for public housing
  • $300 million to address tribal housing needs
  • $25 million for Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) programs at Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB)
  • A moratorium on evictions for renters in homes with federally backed mortgages and most federally subsidized apartments

Of note, the package also indicates that none of the funds provided may be used to require people experiencing homelessness to receive treatment or perform any other prerequisite activities as a condition for receiving shelter, housing, or other services.

While advocates were asking for $15.5 billion for ESG funding, this package includes $150 billion of flexible funds, called the Coronavirus Relief Fund, to state, tribal, and local governments that can be used broadly for rental assistance, housing needs, medical supplies, and other needs related to COVID-19.



How Philanthropy Can Take Action

If you are a public foundation or United Way and can engage in direct lobbying, call the offices of your Senators and members of Congress to demand homelessness funding in the next phase of the Coronavirus response package.

If you are a private foundation or unable to partake in direct lobbying activities, contact your federal policymakers to educate and inform them about what you are seeing in your community and hearing from grantee partners around COVID-19 impacts, especially in communities that have been historically underserved or marginalized. 

Remember: Both Public and private foundations may educate legislators about a broad range of issues without referencing or providing views on specific legislation. Also, both should encourage grantee partners to contact their Representatives and Senators on behalf of their community around the next COVID-19 aid package and talk about how the initial funds are helpful, but more is needed.

As you engage in conversations with policymakers, it is critical to keep racial equity at the forefront of our community relief and recovery efforts as well as our policy asks. Funders need to be firm in voicing the need to prioritize people of color, youth, and LGBTQ folks experiencing homelessness or housing instability. We cannot become complacent and perpetuate racial and LGBTQ inequities in the name of crisis and urgency. You can find resources related to equity and COVID-19 responses on our COVID-19 Resources for Philanthropy page.


What Philanthropy Should Be Thinking About

With an influx of resources coming into communities, funders should be thinking about how we build the capacity for overstressed systems to be able to receive and utilize these funds. Right now, leaders are strapped for capacity to be strategic as they are in “crisis mode” and working to simply maintain. Funders can take ownership in this role by convening mutli-sector tables and provide space to think about the initial funds with a strategic, systems level, and racial equity lens.

Now is also the time for philanthropy to be utilizing relationships and expertise to influence where funds are spent. The $150 billion in flexible funds through the Coronavirus Relief Fund present a unique opportunity for philanthropy to partner with state and local officials to ensure funds are distributed to where they are most needed. While the competition for these dollars will be high, there is a potential of communities who have been historically marginalized to fall through the gap. Funders need to be firm in voicing the unique need to prioritize people experiencing homelessness or housing instability, especially those in historically marginalized communities. We must not perpetuate racial and LGBTQ inequities in the name of crisis and urgency. 


Partner Resources on the CARES Act

Deeper analysis on the CARES Act can be found in various resources from our partners: 

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
COVID-19 Aid Package Congressional Updates
How Will States and Localities Divide the Fiscal Relief in the Coronavirus Relief Fund?

Community Solutions: What the CARES Act Mean for the COVID-19 Homelessness Response

Heartland Alliance: COVID-19 Bill: Much-Needed Emergency Funding but Doesn’t Go Far Enough in Helping Families

National Alliance to End Homelessness: What’s in the Coronavirus Bill for Homelessness?

National Health Care for the Homeless Council: Summary of Key Provisions in Congress' COVID-19 Bills

National Low Income Housing Coalition: Congressional Leaders Agree to Coronavirus Response Package with Funding for Homelessness and Housing

Youth Collaboratory: Progress on $2 Trillion Relief & Stimulus Bill for COVID-19

We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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