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COVID-19 Eviction Diversion Initiative Overview

A comprehensive set of resources to support tenants and landlords during the financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Baker-Polito Administration announced a comprehensive set of resources to support tenants and landlords during the financial challenges caused by the pandemic. The goal of this initiative is to keep tenants safely in their homes and to support the ongoing expenses of landlords once the pause of evictions and foreclosures expire on Saturday, October 17th. This strategy was developed by a cross-agency team assembled by the Administration in coordination with the Massachusetts Trial Court to manage the end of the moratorium on October 17th and reflects input from a broad range of stakeholders.

Table of Contents

Funding Highlights - Original EDI Commitment

$171 million total commitment in FY21, with $112 million of new funding to support new and expanded housing stability programs during the remainder of the fiscal year. Key highlights:

  • $100 million in emergency rental assistance through RAFT.
  • Up to $12.3 million to provide tenants and landlords with access to legal representation and related services prior to and during the eviction process, as well as community mediation to bring tenants and landlords together to find a resolution.
  • Nearly $50 million for post-eviction rapid rehousing.

NEW Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program

NEW March 2021

Beginning March 22, 2021, Massachusetts launched the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which will provide expanded rental relief to eligible tenants, alongside existing RAFT and ERMA. 

With the launch of the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, applicants should not notice significant changes in the application process, and may be eligible to receive funds from either ERAP, RAFT, or ERMA.

How does the new Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program differ from RAFT and ERMA?

There are key differences in program requirements: 
 

  • COVID-19 Impact: Renters must be able to provide a statement attesting to unemployment, decreased wages, or increased expenses due to COVID-19.
  • Higher Benefit: Renters and landlords may receive up to 12 months of assistance with past due rent, plus up to 3 months of future rent.
    • Under RAFT/ERMA, renters and landlords may receive up to $10,000 during state of emergency and up to $7,000 for six months after end of state of emergency.
  • Higher income eligibility: Renters applying for assistance may earn up to 80% of Area Median Income (AMI). Visit our agency locator to determine a region’s AMI.
  • For comparison, RAFT has an income eligibility limit of 50% AMI (60% for Domestic Violence); ERMA has the same eligibility limit of 80% AMI.
  • Use limits: Renters may only receive help with rent and utilities accrued since March 13, 2020.

RAFT/ERMA can help with mortgage payments. Additionally, RAFT/ERMA can also provide assistance regardless of COVID-19 impacts.

Important Information for Boston tenants: The Federal government is providing funds for emergency rent and utility assistance to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and also directly to the City of Boston. The City of Boston is setting up their own program to cover Boston residents.  If you live in Boston, you may wish to apply to their program. This program is only available to tenants living in the City of Boston. You cannot receive assistance from both the City and the State at the same time.

Important Information for all tenants: You cannot receive assistance from more than one government program at a time - city/town or the State - to cover the same costs for the same period.

EXPANSION Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)

Massachusetts will provide nearly $100 million in additional funding and streamline the application process, allowing landlords with 20 or fewer units to apply with tenant consent. The maximum RAFT benefit has increased from $4,000 to $10,000 per household during the COVID state of emergency​ and $7,000 per household for six months after the end of the state of emergency.

EXPANSION Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs)

The nine regional HCECs represent the “front door” for residents to access many state and federal programs. HCECs manage the RAFT/ERMA program on behalf of DHCD, and new funding has enabled agencies to hire Special Housing Counselors to help households with more complicated needs navigate available resources.

NEW Community Mediation Pre-Court

Mediation services are widely available for renters and landlords to support pre-court and pre-trial settlement of eviction cases. Mediation can be particularly helpful in situations where agreement cannot be reached through ERAP, RAFT or ERMA benefits alone.

Details and frequently asked questions.

NEW COVID Eviction Legal Help Project

Through the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP) six legal aid programs will assist low-income tenants, and the Volunteer Lawyers Project will provide legal assistance for low-income owner-occupants of 2- and 3-family homes.

EXPANSION Upstream Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP)

The current TPP assists households where a family member has a disability and has a tremendous success rate in keeping vulnerable families housed through mediation with a neutral third party. The initiative expands this program to serve other vulnerable households, including those eligible for Family Emergency Assistance and low-income seniors.

EXPANSION HomeBASE and Rapid Rehousing

As an additional safety-net, HomeBASE, the Commonwealth’s rapid rehousing benefit, and the Strategic Prevention Initiative (SPI) have been expanded and continue to offer financial assistance and stabilization case management services to families as they are in the process of securing stable housing. 

Interactive EDI Dashboards

Dashboards include summary statistics about each of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Eviction Diversion Initiative programs and are updated on a monthly basis.

Eviction Diversion Initiative Dashboard

CDC Moratorium

When the state moratorium expired a moratorium established by Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) became effective in Massachusetts. Through June 30, 2021, the CDC moratorium will prevent evictions for non-payment for qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their landlord. Courts will accept filings and process cases, and may enter judgments but will not issue an order of execution (the court order that allows a landlord to evict a tenant) until after the expiration of the CDC order. Protection is limited to household who meet certain income and vulnerability criteria. Declaration may be found here.

Information Available

The Administration will be doing broad outreach to stakeholders with information on resources and how to access them. In addition, Mass 2-1-1 is available to answer questions and refer people to assistance. For web information, visit: www.mass.gov/CovidHousingHelp.

Last updated: April 14, 2021
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