Launches first-of-its-kind program to address land use and zoning barriers that limit housing
President Biden’s economic vision is about building an economy from the middle out and bottom up, not the top down— that’s Bidenomics. A critical foundation of that vision, and the central goal of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Housing Supply Action Plan, is an economy where everyone has access to a safe and affordable home. That vision means lowering costs, including by building and preserving more housing, particularly for lower- and middle-income households. Today’s announcements will lower housing costs by tackling challenges that have stifled affordable housing for decades, as well as seizing immediate opportunities:
Reducing barriers to build housing like restrictive and costly land use and zoning rules;
Expanding financing for affordable, energy efficient and resilient housing; and
Promoting commercial-to-residential conversion opportunities, particularly for affordable and zero emissions housing.
Recent data show that inflation in rental markets is decelerating and more apartments are on track to be built this year than any year on record. The Administration’s actions are directly leading to the creation of tens of thousands of affordable housing units. For example, jurisdictions participating in the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) HOME program will produce at least 20,000 units of affordable housing and support an additional 23,000 households with rental assistance, non-congregate shelter, or supportive services. Treasury recently announced that communities across the country will use ARP State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund funds for 2,500 separate projects and developments to meet housing needs and combat homelessness. And since the Administration’s restart of the Federal Financing Bank’s Risk Sharing program, almost 12,000 rental homes have been created or preserved.
Reducing Barriers to Build Housing Like Restrictive and Costly Land Use and Zoning Rules
Local land use laws and zoning regulations limit where, and how densely, housing can be built. This constrains housing supply, perpetuates historical patterns of segregation, prevents workers from accessing jobs, and increases energy costs and climate risk. Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing new actions to fund jurisdictions committed to removing barriers that restrict housing production and preservation, including by:
Announcing the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Housing (PRO Housing) program. Restrictive local land use rules slow down housing production, or prohibit housing being developed at all, which increases the costs to rent or purchase a home. Such restrictive rules are often also inconsistent with fair housing principles. This first-of-its-kind $85 million federal program will provide communities with funding to identify and remove barriers to affordable housing production and preservation. HUD will award grants of up to $10 million to jurisdictions that have an acute demand for affordable housing and are working to identify, address, or remove barriers to housing production and preservation. Funding can be used for planning and policy activities to allow for higher-density zoning and rezoning for multifamily and mixed-use housing, streamlining affordable housing development, and reducing requirements related to parking and other land use restrictions. Funding can also be used for infrastructure activities necessary for the development or preservation of housing.
Reducing land-use restrictions and improving transportation access to housing. Earlier this month, the Department of Transportation announced its Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods (RCN) program, which will provide up to $3.16 billion for planning and capital construction projects that prioritize disadvantaged communities and improve access to daily destinations. This includes improving connections to affordable housing, fostering equitable development, and increasing housing supply through zoning reform. RCN includes a $450 million Regional Partnership Challenge that will incentivize stronger regional partnerships to tackle persistent equitable access and mobility challenges, with land use reform as a key priority.
Encouraging the improvement of land use in Economic Development Administration grant programs. The Economic Development Administration (EDA) updated its “Investment Priorities” that guide the agency’s grantmaking to include an emphasis on efficient land use, where commercial uses, economic activity, and employment opportunities are concentrated and accessible to nearby residential density. Moving forward, EDA will more explicitly incentivize projects that include an emphasis on density in the vicinity of the project – which can in turn encourage greater housing supply and allow people to live closer to work and services they need.
Expanding Financing to Create and Repair Affordable, Energy Efficient and Climate Resilient Housing
Gaps in access to financing, along with the complexity of mixing funding sources, limit the production or preservation of affordable housing. The Biden-Harris Administration is taking the following actions to expand financing for affordable, energy efficient, and climate resilient housing going forward:
Providing new financing for affordable, energy efficient, climate resilient housing and clean energy investments. This month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), which will mobilize private capital and provide financing for thousands of clean energy projects, including cost-saving retrofits of existing homes and buildings, construction of zero emissions buildings, and commercial to residential conversions, among others. Such investments will reduce pollution and lower utility costs. This announcement follows HUD’s announcement of its Green and Resilient Retrofit Program with over $830 million available in grants and loan subsidy, for loan commitments up to $4 billion, to modernize existing HUD-assisted affordable homes so they remain available for families into the future. The Department of Energy also released $90 million to advances efficiency and resilience through building codes, and HUD, FHA, and the United States Department of Agriculture proposed modernizing energy codes.
Making it easier to build and rehabilitate apartments with FHA-insured mortgages. HUD announced new guidelines that increase the dollar amount threshold at which a multifamily loan is considered a large loan and is subject to additional underwriting requirements from $75 million to $120 million. This change will simplify underwriting and reduce development costs for large multifamily properties financed with FHA-insured mortgages without presenting undue risk to FHA, significantly expanding commitments for affordable housing financing. HUD will review this large loan limit annually.
Streamlining financing for the creation of affordable housing. HUD announced that it will allow larger loans to participate in the agency’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Pilot Program, which increases the number of apartment sites eligible for a program that streamlines financing. HUD also updated guidelines to allow public housing authorities (PHAs) to more easily use housing vouchers and mixed-finance transactions to create or preserve housing.
Repairing and expanding affordable housing. HUD published new guidance for public housing authorities and multifamily housing owners participating in the Rental Assistance Demonstration, providing them with additional tools to repair and build deeply affordable housing. The guidance also promotes water- and energy-efficiency investments, and includes new requirements that address climate resilience, adopts stronger energy efficiency standards, and supports repairs to thousands of existing affordable units in the next three years.
Empowering homeowners to be part of the solution by increasing financing for onsite housing units. In April, FHA proposed updates that, if implemented, would make it easier to finance accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which are additional onsite housing units. Among the changes is the ability to include projected rental income from an ADU as part of the qualifying income when purchasing or refinancing a home. This added flexibility would expand opportunities for low- and moderate-income homeowners to benefit from the wealth-building potential of ADUs while increasing the stock of affordable housing.
Promoting Commercial-to-Residential Conversions
Across the country, commercial vacancies are affecting urban and regional economies. Commercial-to-residential conversion can counteract those effects, reenergize local economies, and add to the supply of housing. The adaptive reuse of these properties also presents an opportunity to create zero-emissions housing, which will reduce energy costs for residents and cut dangerous climate pollution. Recognizing that opportunity, the Biden-Harris Administration is launching a new commercial-to-residential conversion initiative that is:
Leveraging federal funding and other tools to support conversions. The White House will lead a new interagency working group to develop and advance federal funding opportunities that support the conversion of commercial properties to housing, and leverage climate-focused federal resources to create zero emissions and affordable units. For example, programs like HUD’s PRO Housing announced today, as well as investments from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, can be used for such conversions. As part of this initiative, the General Services Administration (GSA) will launch an effort to identify and market surplus federal properties that represent the best opportunities for commercial-to-residential conversions. Ongoing conversion projects from GSA dispositions are already producing over 1,000 new housing units. The initiative will continue to convene developers, municipalities, and other stakeholders to learn about opportunities and challenges.
Funding research that supports commercial to residential conversions. This week, HUD announced new funding to support research on office-to-residential conversions, including producing a new guide for state and local policymakers on how to make these projects more economically viable. Building on a public convening held this week on office-to-residential conversions, HUD will release a policy brief on this topic later this year.
Over 44 million households, or roughly 35 percent of the U.S. population, live in rental housing. But our nation’s rental market is defined by a patchwork of state and local laws and legal processes that leave far too many renters with little recourse when housing providers fail to comply with the law or the lease agreement. President Biden believes every American deserves access to safe, accessible, and affordable housing, reflected in the Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, which outlines principles and best practices at the federal, state and local level that would strengthen tenant protections and increase fairness in the rental market.
The Biden-Harris Administration is building on this framework and announcing a series of new, concrete actions to protect renters, which include:
Ensuring all renters have an opportunity to address incorrect tenant screening reports;
Providing new funding to support tenant organizing efforts; and
Ensuring that renters are given fair notice in advance of eviction.
These announcements build on a record of action and progress on behalf of renters. In response to the pandemic, the Biden-Harris Administration deployed unprecedented tools to keep Americans housed, including delivering nearly 11 million emergency rental assistance payments, and establishing a first-of-its-kind national eviction prevention infrastructure that kept eviction filings below pre-pandemic levels for 1.5 years after the eviction moratorium ended. However, many of the systemic inequities in rental markets that existed prior to the pandemic persist today and are compounded by our nation’s housing affordability challenges. That is why the Biden-Harris Administration has taken bold action to address issues of housing supply and lower costs through its Housing Supply Action Plan, including actions also announced today, and is announcing new actions on renters protections here.
These actions include:
Ensuring fair tenant screening practices. The U.S. Department of Housingand Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and three independent agencies, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Housing Financing Agency (FHFA) are each releasing guidance or best practices to landlords, operators, and stakeholders who rely on tenant screening reports when evaluating applications from renters. This guidance communicates the Administration’s expectations on informing renters of what information in their screening report is responsible for their application being denied. This information will help renters by giving them an opportunity to correct errors in their reports and address issues that impact their applications.
Funding tenant education and outreach. HUD is announcing $10 million in new funding for tenant education and outreach in properties it supports. This funding will support capacity building efforts that enable tenants who live in HUD’s project based rental assistance housing to engage with property managers and help sustain safe, decent, and affordable housing. Under the program, funding can be used for training and technical assistance, as well as establishing and operating tenant organizations.
Providing more time for tenants to avoid eviction. HUD has committed to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require that tenants of public housing and properties with project-based rental assistance receive a written notice at least 30 days prior to lease termination for nonpayment of rent. This proposed rule would curtail preventable and unnecessary evictions by providing tenants time and information to help address nonpayment violations. Tenants in public housing and properties with project-based rental assistance are already entitled to receive a 30 day notice in cases of non-payment of rent. However, if finalized, the proposed rule would permanently memorialize this requirement in HUD’s regulations, allowing the agency additional latitude to effectively communicate and implement these protections. As part of the rulemaking process, tenants and other parties will also be able to provide their comments and perspectives to help HUD make sure this rule assists with preventable evictions.
Increasing resident engagement requirements. This week, HUD published new guidance for public housing authorities and multifamily housing owners participating in the Rental Assistance Demonstration, strengthening resident protections through updated resident engagement requirements and enhanced HUD oversight tools, including active monitoring of additional information that demonstrates resident engagement. These new requirements will help ensure residents have more opportunities to provide feedback on the preservation of their homes.
Ensuring renters have a seat at the table. The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized engagement with tenants, tenant organizers and advocacy organizations, including in the creation of its Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights. These engagements ensure renter voice and expertise inform the government’s understanding of challenges that exist in the rental market, and that solutions increase fairness. This week HUD hosted the National Conversation at The Community Table, to hear directly from hundreds of renters on federal policy. In addition, FHFA, FTC and CFPB have each issued requests for information that will inform their respective policymaking; Treasury is hosting quarterly tenant listening sessions on individuals’ experiences with emergency rental assistance; and USDA will host a convening with renters in rural areas this fall.
Announcing major private sector and state and local action. In January, the White House announced its Resident-Centered Housing Challenge, a call to action to housing providers and other stakeholders to strengthen practices that improve quality of life for renters. Since then, over 100 public and private sector entities have pledged to align with the principles in the Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Right. The Administration continues to rally the private and public sector, and welcomes additional actions from housing providers and others to meet this call. Several commitments were announced at the launch of the challenge; examples of new actions include:
Zillow, next year, will launch the ability for its nearly 28 million average monthly unique visitors to search for affordable rental units, including listings that may meet requirements for programs like the Housing Choice Vouchers and income restricted affordable housing. Zillow will offer a one-stop-shop for renters to find affordable rentals and easy to understand information about local laws that will help ensure users know their rights related to leasing and remaining housed with or without rental assistance.
AffordableHousing.com will, this year, deploy “Clear and Fair” digital leases that advocate the principles outlined in the White House Blueprint for a Renter Bill of Rights. Property owners who use these “Clear and Fair” leases will be acknowledged on the site, which receives more than 100 million property searches each year.
Last week, Zillow, Apartments.com, and AffordableHousing.comannounced they will provide consumers with total, upfront cost information on rental properties, which can be hundreds of dollars on top of the advertised rent.
State and Local Governments
Colorado enacted House Bill 23-1120, which requires landlords and tenants to go through mediation in eviction proceedings if the tenant qualified for some forms of financial assistance, and House Bill 23-1095, prohibiting rental agreements from including a certain waiver that limit a renter’s legal recourse.
Connecticut enacted Senate Bill 998, which increases fines on landlords to $2,000 for breaking housing code violations, bans landlords from housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, puts new limits on the amount landlords can charge in fees for overdue rent, offers protections against certain evictions and rent increases to a protected class, and removes online eviction records of cases that were withdrawn, dismissed, or decided in favor of the tenant within 30 days.
Jersey City, NJ announced a “Right To Counsel” program in April 2023, as did Westchester County, NYin May 2023, and St. Louis, MO in July 2023. These programs offer legal assistance to qualified renters facing an eviction.
Los Angeles, CA and Santa Ana, CA each released a series of renter protections. Los Angeles’ ordinances include “just cause” eviction protections, a timeline for paying rental debt accrued during the pandemic, and require landlords to pay relocation fees in some situations, amongst other protections. Santa Ana’s new rental registry will ensure tenants and landlords know their rights and responsibilities and will compliment an eviction prevention program providing rental assistance and supports to qualified households.
These actions come on the heels of other Biden-Harris Administration actions since creating the Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights. CFPB and FTC, both independent agencies, issued a Request for Information seeking public comment on how background screening may shut renters out of housing. FHFA, also in independent agency, initiated a process to solicit feedback on ways to advance renter protections in its financing programs. All three agencies have committed to using those responses to inform potential policy action. HUD released a notification for public comment on ways it can improve its regulations and accessibility standards to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to all HUD-assisted programs, activities, and facilities. In addition, the White House announced first-of-its-kind funding for legal services for veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness in June. Just last week, President Biden announced new actions to address unfair and hidden fees in the rental housing market. Congressional action could bolster these efforts by codifying renters’ rights into law, and to passing the President’s budget proposal, which includes historic investments to lower housing cost and protect renters, expand housing supply and affordability, including funding for eviction prevention.
Major rental housing platforms and several states join the President’s effort to crack down on rental housing junk fees for consumers and increase transparency
While the 3x indicted, 2x impeached serial criminal dictator wannabe Donald J. Trump continues to overturn democracy and seek office solely for his own benefit (staying out of prison, unlimited funds), the Biden-Harris Administration continues to actually take actions (not talk or promises) to make lives better for all Americans. The benefits are demonstrated in the strength of the economy, record job growth, real increases in wages. While Republicans do everything they can to obstruct, to create false narratives (inflation! Gas prices! Crime! Hunter Biden) and have undermined (sabotaged) the economy by bringing the full faith and credit in the U.S. to the brink, causing a lowering in America’s credit rating, Biden has taken action to lower costs for average Americans, give families “more breathing room” and grow the economy sustainably, from the bottom up and the middle out. Here’s a White House fact sheet on the latest actions: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Biden announced a new front in his crackdown on junk fees: rental housing. From repeated rental application fees to surprise “convenience fees,” millions of families incur burdensome costs in the rental application process and throughout the duration of their lease. These fees are often more than the actual cost of providing the service, or are added onto rents to cover services that renters assume are included—or that they don’t even want.
Rental housing fees can be a serious burden on renters. Rental application fees can be up to $100 or more per application, and, importantly, they often exceed the actual cost of conducting the background and credit checks. Given that prospective renters often apply for multiple units over the course of their housing search, these application fees can add up to hundreds of dollars. Even after renters secure housing, they are often surprised to be charged mandatory fees on top of their rent, including “convenience fees” to pay rent online, fees for things like mail sorting and trash collection, and even so-called “January fees” charged for no clear reason at the beginning of a new calendar year. Hidden fees not only take money out of people’s pockets, they also make it more difficult to comparison shop. A prospective renter may choose one apartment over another thinking it is less expensive, only to learn that after fees and other add-ons the actual cost for their chosen apartment is much higher than they expected or can afford.
The President outlined several new, concrete steps in the Administration’s effort to crack down on rental junk fees and lower costs for renters, including:
New commitments from major rental housing platforms—Zillow, Apartments.com, and AffordableHousing.com—who have answered the President’s call for transparency and will provide consumers with total, upfront cost information on rental properties, which can be hundreds of dollars on top of the advertised rent;
New research from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which provides a blueprint for a nationwide effort to address rental housing junk fees; and
Legislative action in states across the country—from Connecticut to California—who are joining the Administration in its effort to crack down on rental housing fees and protect consumers.
These announcements build on the President’s effort to tackle junk fees across industries. President Biden has repeatedly called on federal agencies, Congress, and private companies to take action to address junk fees across the economy, and ensure Americans are provided with honest, transparent pricing. These hidden fees increase the costs consumers pay: studies have found that consumers pay upward of 20 percent extra when the actual price of the product or service is not disclosed upfront. Providing consumers with the full price they can expect to pay creates competition among providers to lower costs, without relying on hidden fees. Earlier this year HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge released an open letter to housing providers and state and local governments to encourage them to adopt policies that promote greater fairness and transparency of fees specifically faced by renters. Today’s actions include:
Commitments by rental housing platforms to show total costs up front. Each month, tens of millions of customers search online to find their next apartment or house. Today, major rental housing platforms are answering President Biden’s call for pricing transparency and announcing new steps to provide consumers with up-front information about fees in rental housing, building on recent actions by private sector leaders in other sectors, including airlines and event tickets. By providing the true costs of rent, people can make an informed decision about where to live and not be surprised by additional costs that push them over budget.
These companies are making the following announcements:
Zillow is today launching a Cost of Renting Summary on its active apartment listings, empowering the 28 million unique monthly users on its rental platform with clear information on the cost of renting. This new tool will enable renters to easily find out the total cost of renting an apartment from the outset, including all monthly costs and one-time costs, like security deposits and application fees.
Apartments.com is announcing that this year it will launch a new calculator on its platform that will help renters determine the all-in price of a desired unit. This will include all up-front costs as well as recurring monthly rents and fees. The Apartments.com Network currently lists almost 1.5 million active availabilities across more than 385,000 properties.
AffordableHousing.com, the nation’s largest online platform dedicated solely to affordable housing, will require owners to disclose all refundable and non-refundable fees and charges upfront in their listings. It will launch a new “Trusted Owner” badge that protects renters from being charged junk fees by identifying owners who have a history of adhering to best practices, including commitment to reasonable fee limits, no junk fees, and full fee disclosure.
New research on policy innovation to address rental fees. HUD is releasing a new research brief that provides an overview of the research on rental fees and highlights state, local, and private sector strategies to encourage transparency and fairness in the rental market, including capping or eliminating rental application fees; allowing prospective renters to provide their own screening reports; allowing a single application fee to cover multiple applications; and clearly identifying bottom-line amounts that tenants will pay for move-in and monthly rent. The brief provides a blueprint for how everyone from local government to landlords can do better for renters.
Colorado. Enacted House Bill 1099, which allows prospective renters to reuse a rental application for up to 30 days without paying additional fees; and House Bill 1095, which limits fees to tenants when landlords fail to provide a nonrenewal notice that disguise fees as “rent,” and limits the amount a landlord can mark up a tenant for third-party services.
Rhode Island. Enacted House Bill 6087 to limit rental application fees beyond the actual cost of obtaining a background check or credit report, if the prospective tenant does not provide their own report.
Minnesota. Enacted Senate File 2909, which includes a requirement for landlords to clearly display the total monthly payment and all nonoptional fees on the first page of the lease agreement and in all advertisements.
Connecticut. Enacted Senate Bill 998 to prohibit a landlord from requiring a fee for processing, reviewing, or accepting a rental application, and set a cap of $50 on the amount that can be charged for tenant screening reports. The law also prohibits move-in and move-out fees, and certain fee-related lease provisions, including certain late fees related to utility payments.
Maine. Enacted Legislative Document 691 to prohibit a landlord from charging a fee to submit a rental application that exceeds the actual cost of a background check, a credit check, or another screening process. The law also prohibits a landlord from charging more than one screening fee in any 12-month period.
Montana. Senate passed Senate Bill 320 to require landlords to refund application fees to unsuccessful rental applicants except any portion of the fee used to cover costs related to reviewing the application, including conducting a background check. Landlords may only charge candidates for the actual cost of obtaining a background check or credit report.
California. Senate passed Senate Bill 611 to require the mandatory disclosure of monthly rent rates, including disclosure of a range of payments, fees, deposits, or charges, and to prohibit certain fees from being charged.
Earlier this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, both independent agencies, requested information on tenant screening processes, including how landlords and property managers set application and screening fees, which will help inform enforcement and policy actions under each agency’s jurisdiction. The CFPB has noted that background checks too often include inaccurate or misleading information and risk scores that lack independent validation of their reliability.
These announcements build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing efforts to support renters, including through the release of a first-of-its-kind Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights and a Housing Supply Action Plan, focused on boosting the supply of affordable housing—including rental housing. Reducing housing costs is central to Bidenomics, and recent data show that inflation in rental housing is abating. Moreover, experts predict that roughly 1 million new apartments will be built this year, increasing supply that will further increase affordability. The actions announced today will help renters understand these fees and the full price they can expect to pay, and create additional competition housing providers to reduce reliance on hidden fees.
In the coming months, the Biden-Harris Administration will work with Congress, state leaders, and the private sector to address rental junk fees and build a fairer rental housing market. On July 26, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will host its first-ever hearing on junk fees, including in the rental housing market.
The Biden Administration also launches Resident-Centered Housing Challenge, a call-to-action to improve the quality of life for renters
The Biden-Harris Administration is announcing new actions to increase fairness in the rental market and further principles of fair housing. These actions align with a new Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rightsthat the Administration is also releasing. The Blueprint lays out a set of principles to drive action by the federal government, state and local partners, and the private sector to strengthen tenant protections and encourage rental affordability. Key actions announced include:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), both independent agencies, announced they will collect information to identify practices that unfairly prevent applicants and tenants from accessing or staying in housing in order to inform enforcement and policy actions under each agency’s jurisdiction. This is the first time the FTC has issued a request for information exploring unfair practices in the rental market. The two agencies will seek information on a broad range of practices that affect the rental market, including the creation and use of tenant background checks, the use of algorithms in tenant screenings, the provision of adverse action notices by landlords and property management companies, and how an applicant’s source of income factors into housing decisions.
The CFPB announced it will issue guidance and coordinate enforcement efforts with the FTC to ensure accurate information in the credit reporting system and to hold background check companies accountable for having unreasonable procedures.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), an independent agency, announced it will launch a new public process to examine proposed actions promoting renter protections and limits on egregious rent increases for future investments. FHFA will maintain transparency throughout the process and provide periodic updates, including one within 6 months, to interested stakeholders. As announced in November, the FHFA will also increase affordability in the multifamily rental market by establishing requirements that encourage the financing of multifamily loans that guarantee affordable housing. In 2022, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae purchased a combined $142 billion in multifamily loans supporting over one million units. If the same activity holds in 2023, this would mean an investment in approximately 700,000 affordable units.
A U.S. Department of Justice workshop will inform potential guidance updates around anti-competitive information sharing, including in rental markets.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require public housing authorities and owners of project-based rental assistance properties to provide at least 30 days’ advanced notice before terminating a lease due to nonpayment of rent.
The Administration will hold quarterly meetings with a broad, diverse, and varying group of tenants and tenant advocates to ensure they continue to have a seat at the table and can share ambitious ideas to strengthen tenant protections.
These new announcements are part of a broader set of federal actions that exemplify the principles laid out in the Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, which underscores key protections every renter deserves:
Safe, Quality, Accessible, and Affordable Housing: Renters should have access to housing that is safe, decent, and affordable.
Clear and Fair Leases: Renters should have a clear and fair lease that has defined rental terms, rights, and responsibilities.
Education, Enforcement, and Enhancement of Renter Rights: Federal, state, and local governments should do all they can to ensure renters know their rights and to protect renters from unlawful discrimination and exclusion.
The Right to Organize: Renters should have the freedom to organize without obstruction or harassment from their housing provider or property manager.
Eviction Prevention, Diversion, and Relief: Renters should be able to access resources that help them avoid eviction, ensure the legal process during an eviction proceeding is fair, and avoid future housing instability.
In addition, the Administration is rallying state and local stakeholders and private housing actors to drive further action to protect renters in line with the Blueprint. As part of this effort, the Administration is launching the Resident-Centered Housing Challenge (Challenge), a call to action to housing providers and other stakeholders to strengthen practices and make their own independent commitments that improve the quality of life for renters. The Challenge, which will occur during the Spring of 2023, also encourages states, local, Tribal, and territorial governments to enhance existing policies and develop new ones that promote fairness and transparency in the rental market. Early commitments in support of the Challenge, which would affect over 15 million rental units, include:
Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) and Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency(PHFA) have capped annual rental increases to 5 percent per year for federally or state subsidized affordable housing. Beginning in 2023, WHEDA policy applies to existing residents in properties utilizing state or federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. PHFA applied this policy to their portfolio of 450 properties with PHFA funding in 2022.
Members of the Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF), which collectively own or manage 145,000 housing units across the U.S., commit to offer flexible payment plans for residents with unpaid rent who have engaged with property management and to provide the following notices and protections where permitted by local law and financing documents: at least 30 days’ notice to vacate for nonpayment of rent; at least 5 days to cure a missed rent payment; and 60 days’ notice to tenants of any proposed sale or closure of a property. SAHF also commits to launching a task force of its members to identify best practices for resident-centered practices and share resources with the field including model policies and procedures, sample notices, and case studies.
Realtor.com Rentals will pilot a new listing process through their DIY landlord product, Avail, highlighting units and landlords that indicate that they welcome Housing Choice Vouchers. Realtor.com will be able to share this information with its nearly 5 million monthly rentals search visitors. They will also ensure that more than 1.3 million Avail renters have access to their application information so they can submit their application to multiple property owners on the platform without additional cost.
The National Apartment Association commits to promoting resident programming and practices, such as helping tenants build and improve credit through reporting of positive rent payments to credit bureaus, through their website, industry events and other content channels that reach a network of more over 95,000 members owning and operating more than 11.6 million apartment homes globally.
The National Association of Realtors and its affiliate, the Institute of Real Estate Management, commit to creating new resources for property managers in their network of 1.5 million members that highlight ways they can incorporate resident-centered property management practices in their businesses. Practices would include a range of examples that have proven effective, such as advertising to prospective residents that Housing Choice Vouchers are accepted at their property, providing information about rental assistance, and using alternative credit scores for applicants without a detailed credit history.
The National Multifamily Housing Council commits to working with its 2,000 members to identify business standards that align with principles of resident-centered management practices, such as helping residents build credit, providing resource information to residents in financial distress, and communicating these practices through a new resource hub on its website.
The Administration welcomes additional commitments from interested stakeholders to: pursue high-road practices aligned with the Blueprint principles; create new benefits for residents that enhance their economic mobility, build credit, and prepare them for homeownership; reduce or eliminating rental “junk fees,” which are the hidden fees, charges, and add-ons that take cash out of people’s pockets; expand pathways to eviction mitigation and prevention; and enhance and increase communication about tenant rights. To join the Challenge, interested partners can complete this survey by April 28, 2023. Questions regarding the White House Resident-Centered Housing Challenge team, can be directed to [email protected].
Over a third of the American population – 44 million households – rent their homes. Before the pandemic, well over 2 million eviction fillings and roughly 900,000 evictions occurred annually – disproportionately affecting Black women and their children. Since then, rental housing has become less affordable with some landlords taking advantage of market conditions to pursue egregious rent increases. Today’s announcements recognize there are responsible housing providers – large and small, national and local – willing to treat renters fairly, but it also holds accountable those who exploit market realities at the cost of renters’ housing access and stability.
Since taking office, the President has taken substantial steps to promote fairness in the rental market and ease the burden of rental costs for millions of American renters. The Administration kept the national eviction moratorium in place until August 2021, which helped to prevent over 1.5 million eviction filings nationwide. The Administration has delivered over 8 million rental or utility assistance payments to reduce renters’ risk of eviction or housing instability through Emergency Rental Assistance programs and provided over $769 million for housing stability services. Last May, the Administration released a Housing Supply Action Plan, which set the goal of closing America’s housing supply shortfall in five years. The Administration has been making progress advancing a long-term goal of providing housing vouchers to all eligible households: the 2022 and 2023 President’s Budgets proposed to expand rental assistance to an additional 200,000 households – and the Administration has secured rental assistance to more than 100,000 households through the 2022 and 2033 appropriations bills and the American Rescue Plan. And, last week, HUD published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on its efforts to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing.
On National Energy Assistance Day, White House Coordinates Outreach and Encourages Families to Enroll in Assistance Programs
The White House is joining states, localities, advocacy groups, and utilities in encouraging American families to apply for programs that can help hard-pressed families address home energy costs. These resources include the record funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provided by the Biden-Harris Administration this year and funds to reduce home energy costs in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In addition to outreach efforts across the Administration, the White House also announced information encouraging states to use all available American Rescue Plan resources for energy assistance and funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to reduce home energy costs.
Funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Are Building on the American Rescue Plan’s Investment That More Than Doubled LIHEAP Funding: The Biden-Harris Administration has delivered nearly $8 billion in LIHEAP funding nationally, more than doubling typical annual appropriations—thanks to an additional $4.5 billion provided by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Earlier this month, the White House announced state-by-state breakdown of this funding (see below for total awards to date by state/territory). Last week, the Administration also distributed the first $100 million installment of a five-year, $500 million investment in LIHEAP provided by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These funds represent the largest investment in a single year since the program was established in 1981. These resources are already allowing states across the country to provide more home energy relief to low income Americans than ever before.
The American Rescue Plan Provided Additional Historic Resources for Utility Relief Including the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program and State & Local Fiscal Recovery Fund: The American Rescue Plan provided other critical resources that states and localities can use to address home energy costs. ERA programs, which received an additional $21.5 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan, can provide help with past-due utility bills or ongoing assistance with energy costs to help distressed renters avoid shut-offs and keep current on expenses. State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds can also be deployed to help deliver energy relief to families.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Made Historic Investments to Reduce Home Energy Costs: The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invested a historic $3.5 billion in the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, reducing energy costs for hundreds of thousands of low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes.
The Administration is announcing the following:
Outreach in Support of National Energy Assistance Day: Today, the Department of Health and Human Services released a radio announcement in English and Spanish and a video to encourage families to apply for LIHEAP. The radio announcement will air over 2,000 times and reach an estimated 36 million listeners. Yesterday, the Department also released a Dear Colleague Letter to LIHEAP Administrators encouraging their participation in National Energy Assistance Day. Other agencies across the Administration are also celebrating National Energy Awareness Day by disseminating information about assistance programs, including LIHEAP and ERA. The White House also coordinated outreach to state and local elected officials as well as other stakeholders.
Information on Using the Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund for Utility Assistance: The American Rescue Plan created a $1 billion fund for states, territories and tribes that is available to provide cash or targeted assistance to needy families. Today, the Department of Health and Human Services released a brief on how to use these funds to respond to winter utility needs.
Significant Support Distributed Through American Rescue Plan Housing Programs: As of the end of 2021, well over $25 billion of funds have been obligated to assist households across the country through the ERA program, which provides both rental and utility assistance to households in need. Treasury continues to promote best practices such as avoiding shut-offs for eligible households and allowing self-attestation to document substantial increases in home heating or other utility costs to support eligibility. Treasury is also working with states and Tribes to distribute $9.8 billion in funding for the Homeowners Assistance Fund, with a majority of approved plans including utility assistance to homeowners in need.
Best Practices on Coordination with Utility Providers: Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury Department hosted a webinar with over 700 utility assistance program administrators and utility providers from across the country to discuss how programs including LIHEAP and ERA can coordinate with utility providers to increase the efficiency and reach of their programs. Panelists from across the country shared their perspectives on effective coordination between utility assistance administrators and utility providers and highlighted a range of best practices.
Today’s announcements build on the Administration’s previous actions to ensure these historic resources are distributed swiftly and equitably:
Secured Commitments from Utilities to Avoid Shut-offs and Expedite Aid: The White House has called on utility companies to prevent devastating utility shut-offs and help expedite the delivery of unprecedented federal aid. In January, the White House announced that it has already welcomed commitments from fourteen major utility companies across the country, including Atlantic City Electric, Baltimore Gas and Electric, ComEd, Delmarva Power, DTE Energy, Eversource, Green Mountain Power, National Grid, NorthWestern Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric, PECO, Pepco, Portland General Electric and Vermont Gas, as well as the delivered fuel trade association NEFI.
Called for Coordination of LIHEAP and Emergency Rental Assistance Relief to Families: To maximize the impact of home energy assistance, the White House called for states, localities, and tribes to coordinate across programs including LIHEAP and ERA. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury Department have issued guidance and co-hosted webinars on LIHEAP and ERA best practices that attracted 500 administrators – collectively representing 47 states, the District of Columbia, and 72 Tribal governments. More than 50 percent of these administrators now report they are coordinating across these programs.
Households in need of help with their energy bills can identify resources in their area at EnergyHelp.us or call the National Energy Assistance Referral hotline at 1-866-674-6327.
On the occasion of President Joe Biden’s address to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, January 21, the White House issued a fact sheet detailing some of the ways the Biden-Harris Administration is working with Mayors to deliver for communities across the country, and what passing the Build Back Better agenda could mean:
Getting Shots in Arms and Saving Lives Since the start of his Administration, President Biden has prioritized local partnerships and has worked closely with mayors across the country who have been instrumental as trusted sources of information about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines.
Working with local governments, the Administration has shipped over 160 million pieces of personal protective equipment – gloves, gowns, masks – to protect frontline health care workers in cities across the United States. Since first launching surge response teams on July 1st, the Administration has deployed over 3,000 personnel to 39 states and 4 U.S. territories. The Administration also recently worked with several mayors and local jurisdictions to surge federal testing support and federal test sites to several cities.
Over 115 mayors across the country joined the White House, HHS, and We Can Do This campaign to launch a Mayors Challenge to Increase COVID-19 Vaccinations. This campaign was instrumental in increasing the adult vaccination rate through mayors sharing best practices and launching innovative efforts to boost vaccinations, including grassroots outreach, mobile and neighborhood vaccine clinics, incentives, prizes, and other efforts.
Richmond, VA Mayor Levar Stoney as co-lead of the Mayors Challenge, launched the #HotVaccinatedSummer campaign with the Richmond Health Department focused on taking the vaccine to residents through mobile vaccination units, pop-up vaccine sites at grocery stores, food pantries, apartment complexes, and churches, and neighborhood block parties.
Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, mayors of Louisiana’s two largest cities, launched a month-long, inter-city “New Orleans vs Baton Rouge COVID challenge” to motivate citizens to get vaccinated.
Detroit, MI Mayor Mike Duggan launched an innovative “Good Neighbor Program” where residents received gift cards for driving their neighbors to get vaccinated, as well as a door-to-door vaccination education canvassing effort.
San Antonio, TX Mayor Ron Nirenberg along with making pop-up vaccine clinics accessible, collaborated with local artists to create murals reminding residents of the importance of getting vaccinated.
Getting People Back to Work President Biden has grown the economy faster than any first-year administration ever with 6.4 million jobs added, the most in one year on record. The unemployment rate is 3.9% – four years faster than projected because of the American Rescue Plan. The Biden-Harris agenda has provided substantial resources to state and local governments to expand and improve America’s workforce development system so that workers of all kinds from diverse communities will be prepared and successful in good-paying union jobs.
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) included $350 billion in state and local fiscal recovery funds that governments can use to assist workers who want and are available to work – including job training, public jobs programs, job fairs, childcare, transportation, hiring bonuses, and subsidized employment efforts). The ARP also invested $3 billion in the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to assist communities in their efforts to build back better from the pandemic, including $1 billion for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge and $500 million for a Good Jobs Challenge that will support sector partnerships that bring employers, unions, non-profits, community colleges, training providers, and local governments together to enhance local training and hiring efforts.
Building Bridges to Infrastructure Jobs:
Washington, DC is using ARP resources to expand the city’s Infrastructure Academy to ensure a diverse workforce is ready to fill the infrastructure jobs that will be created by the historic bipartisan infrastructure law.
Milwaukee, WI has dedicated ARP funds to launch a lead abatement workforce development program and an Earn and Learn program which assists young people entering manufacturing and other high-skill jobs.
Phoenix, AZ is using Rescue Plan funds to partner with local community colleges and the private sector on job training programs that not only will re-skill and re-employ individuals for new careers in high demand workforce areas, such as manufacturing, construction, and the region’s emerging semiconductor industry.
Supporting our Essential Education Workers:
Seattle, WA used ARP fiscal recovery funds to provide premium pay for local child care workers, up to $835 per worker who have been there for at least 6 months.
Bolstering our Health Care Workforce:
Chicago, IL is leveraging ARP funds to build a 2,200 public health workforce working as vaccine ambassadors and addressing vaccine resistance.
New York City is dedicating ARP funds to bolster their public health workforce through the New York City Public Health Corps program, which will focus on a range of public health needs – from vaccine access, to primary care, to mental health counseling.
Building a Better America Since President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden-Harris Administration has hit the ground running with a focus on fostering strong partnerships and working with mayors to implement the largest long-term investment in America’s infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century. The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will rebuild crumbling road and bridges, replace lead pipes, help provide high-speed internet to every family in America, and produce concrete results that change people’s lives for the better. These results will create good-paying, union jobs, support domestic manufacturing and supply chains, and position the United States to win the 21st century. As the Administration implements the law, it is following through on President Biden’s commitment to ensure investments advance equity and racial justice, reach communities all across the country – including rural communities, communities of color, and disability communities – and strengthen the nation’s resilience to climate change. Since the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden Administration has it the ground running. Some of the key actions since the law’s passage include:
Understanding the importance of strong partnership with local governments to deliver results on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the White House appointed Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor of New Orleans and former President of the US Conference of Mayors, as Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced $27 billion in funding to replace, repair, and rehabilitate bridges across the country over the next five years, including many locally-owned “off system” bridges.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will invest more than $14 billion of funding for over 500 projects across 52 states and territories. These key projects will strengthen the nation’s supply chain, provide significant new economic opportunities nationwide, and bolster our defenses against climate change.
USDOT awarded $1 billion in Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants to invest in 90 major projects across 47 states funding that will be boosted by an additional $7.5 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at USDOT announced $3 billion for 3,075 airports across the country that can use investments to upgrade critical infrastructure.
The Vice President announced the Administration’s Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan, which includes action items focused on collaboration with local partners to accelerate the replacement of lead pipes over the next decade. As part of this plan, EPA announced $7.4 billion in funding allocations for states to upgrade America’s aging water infrastructure, sewerage systems, pipes and service lines, and more.
The Federal Communications Commission launched the Affordable Connectivity Program providing broadband subsidies of up to $30/month for low-income households (up to $75/month for households on Tribal Lands) and up to $100 towards the purchase of a desktop, laptop or tablet computer.
EPA announced $1 billion in funding to clean up 49 Superfund sites across 24 states to accelerate cleanup at dozens of other sites across the country, stop toxic waste from harming communities, and create good-paying jobs.
The Department of the Interior released initial guidance for the states interested in applying for funding to cap and plug orphaned oil and gas wells that reduce methane emissions and create jobs, with 26 states expressing interest in a portion of the $4.7 billion in funding for well plugging, remediation and restoration available in infrastructure programs.
The Department of Energy launched a new Building a Better Grid initiative to accelerate the deployment of new transition lines, and it released a notice of intent to inform the design and implementation of this historic investment.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes billions of dollars in competitive funding available to cities, towns, and municipalities across dozens of new and existing programs. As local governments begin to rebuild and reinvest in their communities, the Biden-Harris Administration stands ready to support local leaders as they combine funding streams, organize around their priorities, and build local support for long overdue infrastructure projects. The White House released a fact sheet highlights 25 already available or soon-to-be-available sources of funding that local governments – particularly cities – can compete or apply for directly. The White House will also be releasing a comprehensive guidebook of all available funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the coming weeks.
Addressing Supply Chain Blockages As our economy has turned back on from the unprecedented shutdown resulting from the pandemic, our supply chains have been strained. The Administration is working closely with mayors and local governments across the country to mitigate supply chain blockages and ensure shelves are stocked.
The Administration’s port envoy has held weekly meetings with city-owned ports, including the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, to identify ways to reduce congestion and move toward 24/7 operations, which reduces the emissions and traffic in communities.
The Department of Transportation awarded more than $241 million in discretionary grants to improve ports facilities and address supply chain disruptions in 19 cities, including Houston, TX; Brunswick, GA; Bay St Louis, MS; Tell City, IN; Alpena, MI; Delcambre, LA; Oakland, CA; Portsmouth, VA; Tacoma, WA; and Long Beach, CA.
The Administration is working to help schools experiencing challenges purchasing and reliably obtaining food for their meal plans. USDA has committed $1.5 billion for schools and states to purchase foods including funding to purchase local foods from historically underserved producers and announced an adjustment in school meal reimbursements that put an estimated $750 million more into school meal programs across the nation this year.
Advancing Local Climate Action On Day One, President Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement, reestablished U.S. leadership, and renewed the federal government’s partnership with the states, cities, Tribes, and localities that carried forward America’s progress on climate. Since then, President Biden has deployed clean wind and solar energy across the country, jumpstarted an electric vehicle future that will be built in America, advanced environmental justice in underserved communities, and taken aggressive action to make our country more resilient to climate change and extreme weather.
Today, President Biden will announce how the Biden-Harris Administration is teaming up with states, cities, labor, and industry to launch the Building Performance Standards Coalition, a first-of-its-kind partnership between 33 state and local governments dedicated to delivering cleaner, healthier, and more affordable buildings. States and cities part of the coalition will design and implement building performance standards that create good paying union jobs, lower the cost of energy bills for consumers, keep residents and workers safe from harmful pollution, and cut emissions from the building sector.
The Administration is also empowering local leaders to advance climate solutions across other sectors—for example:
The Department of Energy set a new National Community Solar Partnership target of powering 5 million homes by 2025, with on-demand technical assistance available to local governments, and launched the SolarAPP+ tool to help them speed up permitting of rooftop solar installations.
The Department of Transportation announced $182 million in grants for transit agencies to deploy zero-emission and low-emission transit buses, including awards to the Chicago Transit Authority; Anaheim, CA; Fort Collins, CO; Lawrence, KS; Jackson, MS; Fayetteville, NC; Lincoln, NE; Norman, OK; and more.
The EPA announced $50 million for environmental justice initiatives using ARP funds, including water infrastructure job training in Baltimore, MD; indoor air quality improvements in Fort Collins, CO; and outreach on asthma and environmental hazards in Hartford, CT.
FEMA announced $1 billion for the FY2021 Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, available for cities and other levels of government to proactively invest in community resilience to hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters.
In November 2021, President Biden and 15 bipartisan mayors representing communities across the country participated in COP26, where the President announced bold plans to reduce methane emissions, create clean energy jobs, and build back better with infrastructure initiatives that advance prosperity and combat the climate crisis.
Addressing Gun Violence and Crime During the President’s first year in office, the Biden-Harris Administration has partnered with mayors across the country on actions to reduce gun violence and has provided historic levels of funding for community-oriented policing and expanding community violence interventions (CVI) – neighborhood-based programs proven to combat gun violence. The Administration has made historic levels of funding from the American Rescue Plan – including $350 billion in state and local funding – available to state and local governments for law enforcement purposes to advance community policing strategies and community violence interventions.
Working with 16-jurisdictions, the White House launched the Community Violence Intervention Collaborative, a cohort of mayors, law enforcement, CVI experts and philanthropic organizations committed to using ARP funding to increase investment in their community violence intervention infrastructure and share best practices.
Cities including Milwaukee, WI; Albuquerque, NM; Syracuse, NY; and Mobile, AL responded to the President’s call by committing and deploying ARP funds for advancing community-oriented policing.
Mayors from cities across the country including Seattle, WA; Buffalo, NY; and Atlanta, GA have committed to deploy ARP fund for community violence interventions following a memo from Senior White House advisors on how state and local officials can implement ARP funding into CVI work.
Cities across the country including St. Louis, MO and Tucson, AZ committed to investing ARP funding in public safety strategies such as summer jobs for young adults and substance abuse and mental health services.
Prevent Housing Instability and Homelessness During the President’s first year in office, the Biden-Harris Administration partnered with mayors across the country to keep Americans housed. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) included over $21 billion for the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. These funds, together with $25 billion signed into law under the previous Administration but implemented under this Administration, enabled households to catch up on rent and avoid evictions. State and local grantees obligated over $25 billion in ERA in 2021, and these funds contributed to a historically low eviction filing rate. Also included within ARP were $5 billion in supplemental funding for HOME, which enables state and local governments to create and preserve affordable housing, and $5 billion in emergency housing vouchers to help people experiencing and at risk of homelessness secure housing.
In June, 46 cities joined the White House to create eviction prevention action plans as part of a first-of-its-kind summit. More than 100 eviction diversion programs were created or expanded as part of this partnership with the White House and local leaders.
Mayors from Louisville, Milwaukee, San Antonio, and Boston shared best practices in subsequent White House events including strategies to prevent evictions and distribute rental assistance to renters and landlords in need.
Dozens of mayors have signed onto House America, a federal initiative aimed at maximizing the ARP resources to address homelessness. The goal of this initiative is to cumulatively re-house 100,000 households experiencing homelessness and add 20,000 new units of affordable housing into the development pipeline by the end of 2022.
Building an Orderly, Fair, and Humane Immigration System The Biden-Harris Administration is working to build a humane, orderly, and fair 21st century immigration system at the border and beyond. One that invests in smart technology and infrastructure at the border, that prioritizes our resources and values immigrants living in our country and contributing to our communities for generations, and that once again welcomes refugees and is a beacon of light for those seeking safe haven.
Since day one, the Biden-Harris Administration took steps to undo the wrongdoings of the previous Administration, including getting rid of the Muslim ban, taking steps to protect DACA recipients, and restoring our asylum system. On day one, President Biden also sent his immigration bill to Congress – The U.S. Citizenship Act – which laid out the components needed to build an updated immigration system that reflects our values and responds to our hemisphere’s current needs.
Working with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State and non-profit organizations in Mexico and the United States, the Administration assisted 13,000 people in the wind down of the Migrant Protection Protocol to fight their cases in the United States. The Administration also designated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haiti, Venezuela, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, and Burma, and expanded to El Salvador and Honduras.
The President tasked Vice President Harris with leading efforts to address the root causes of migration from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The Vice President announced $310 million in urgent humanitarian relief in April 2021, in addition to the President’s FY22 budget request for $861 million for Central America. The Vice President also secured $1.2 billion from the private sector to create job programs and invest in the economic stability and prosperity for our partner countries. In addition to the work the Vice President is leading, the Administration is working with countries in South America and leaders in the hemisphere to address migration as a regional issue that necessitates regional leadership and a regional response.
The Administration remains committed to immigration reform, to restoring asylum, and to working with partners to ensure the safety, security, and dignity of immigrants in the region:
Engaged mayors and cities to amplify the broad sweeping impact President Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act would have on all 11 million undocumented immigrants, including farm workers and individuals with Temporary Protected Status.
Partnered with cities including San Diego, Long Beach, Pomona, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio to stand up Emergency Influx Sites to provide temporary shelter and care for thousands of unaccompanied children.
Awarded $110 million in supplemental humanitarian funding to the National Board for Emergency Food and Shelter Program eligible to cities and services providers providing humanitarian assistance to migrants at the southern border.
Regularly engaged bipartisan border mayors to discuss and coordinate rebuilding America’s border management and asylum systems that were previously gutted by the prior administration. Additionally, engaged local elected leaders in the Rio Grande Valley, San Diego, and El Centro border sectors to protect border communities from the physical dangers resulting from the previous administration’s approach to border wall construction.
Welcoming Refugees and Resettlement Efforts The Biden-Harris Administration has taken a whole-of-America approach to safely, securely, and effectively welcome more than 76,000 Afghan allies to the United States through the Operation Allies Welcome.
In close coordination with Departments and Agencies across the Federal government, the Administration has worked with state and local officials; refugee resettlement organizations; veterans; faith, private sector, and non-profit leaders to ensure Afghans are set up for success in their new communities. The White House Operation Allies Welcome team provided briefings to USCM and visited resettlement sites in six states to engage with local officials and stakeholders on the frontlines of welcoming our Afghan allies. In his capacity as OAW Coordinator, Jack Markell attended the 2021 USCM Summer Meeting in Dayton, Ohio to brief mayors on their important role in the resettlement effort.
USCM Past President Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin led the effort for USCM’s resolution in support of Afghan resettlement and welcomed briefings from senior Administration officials to keep mayors updated on resettlement efforts
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner worked with local resettlement agencies to raise more than $8.5 million dollars for the Houston Afghan Resettlement Fund (HARF) to help the local resettlement agencies provide additional services for Afghan evacuees
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt collaborated with the local resettlement agency to identify additional funding stream to for affordable housing for Afghan evacuees
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor worked with the local school district to ensure a warm welcome to arriving Afghans students and families.
Sacramento Mayor Darryl Steinberg coordinated with state, county, and local leaders to create a new coalition called the American Network of Services for Afghanistan Refugees (ANSAR) to assist in meeting the needs of Afghan families.
In addition to President Biden, ten members of the President’s Cabinet spoke at the USCM Winter Meeting, including Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and EPA Administrator Regan. Senior Administration officials including ARP Coordinator Gene Sperling, Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu, and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Julie Rodriguez will also speak at the event.
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the launch of a new $30 million initiative called Building Better Homes – Emissions Free and Healthier Communities to build market capacity and demand for healthier decarbonized homes and neighborhoods. The initiative will establish a network of builders and developers that are committed to building carbon neutral single-family homes and neighborhoods and provide training and technical support to builders and developers interested in both advancing the single-family carbon neutral housing market and marketing themselves as leaders in decarbonization and healthy home construction. Advancing carbon neutrality in the building sector supports the state’s nation-leading goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050 as mandated by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act).
“Single-family homes are too often overlooked as sources of greenhouse gas emissions in New York and it’s crucial we work with both developers and homebuyers to reduce emissions,” Governor Hochul said. “Through the Building Better Homes initiative and its incentives, we are not only ensuring homebuyers have greener options to choose from, but also that we continue to work with the building and development industries to pave the way towards a more sustainable future.”
The initiative will be administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and today’s announcement makes $5 million available under phase one of the program to support builders and developers seeking training, technical assistance, marketing support, and funding to build carbon-free model homes. This program will grow the carbon neutral single-family home market as well as support modernization and decarbonization of building designs and construction practices to incorporate carbon neutral technologies and cost-effectively deliver high quality, healthy, resilient, and sustainable homes. Applications to become a program partner, with up to $250,000 available per partner, will be accepted through December 31, 2023. For more information on this opportunity and how to become a partner, please visit NYSERDA’s website.
As part of the Building Better Homes initiative, NYSERDA is also partnering with New York State Builders Association and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), to advance construction of carbon neutral homes and promote their non-energy benefits, particularly indoor air quality improvements associated with the absence of combustion appliances and the inclusion of balanced ventilation. These partnerships will provide information about the health benefits of carbon neutral construction that builders and developers can integrate into their own materials to educate homebuyers. Through the partnership with AAFA and their existing diversity, equity and inclusion programming, special attention will be paid to educating the builder network about the health benefits of carbon neutral construction in disadvantaged communities, which traditionally have higher rates of asthma and allergy, in part due to the siting of fossil fuel plants and transportation corridors in these neighborhoods as well as in-home combustion.
“NYSERDA is launching the Building Better Homes initiative, in recognition of the impact of harmful building emissions on New York State residents and the world in general,” President and CEO of NYSERDA Doreen Harris said. “Through public-private partnerships, we are taking action to transform the market for carbon neutral homes by highlighting the health benefits of this type of construction and catalyzing market demand as we advance the state’s climate and clean energy goals.”
With over 12,000 new homes being built per year, addressing the single-family home new construction market is critical to achieving the State’s climate and energy goals. As the State implements the Climate Act, any home built with fossil fuel equipment and appliances will need to be retrofitted in the future, adding costs and hassle to homeowners. Building entire neighborhoods without the need to expand natural gas infrastructure, while still providing the quality and features that homeowners want such as fireplaces, swimming pool heaters, and outdoor entertainment areas, will significantly reduce the costs of new developments.
“Build Better Homes is an important initiative in our efforts to put New York on the path toward reaching our goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” State Senator Brian Kavanagh said. “In addition to strong mandates for zero-emissions, we will need to increase the capacity of the building sector to build all-electric homes and other critical sustainable infrastructure, as this program will do. While there is an urgent need to invest in sustainability on a much larger scale, Build Better Homes is a good step in the right direction. I thank Governor Kathy Hochul, NYSERDA Chair Richard Kauffman, and everyone at NYSERDA for their ongoing commitment to making New York a leader in creating a sustainableworld.”
“Today’s announcement of the Building Better Homes initiative demonstrates our state’s continued commitment to achieving our statewide emissions and energy goals,” Assemblymember Michael Cusick said. “In order to meet these goals we must address all sources of emissions including single family homes. While larger commercial or residential buildings are often highlighted as major targets for emissions reduction, it is crucial that we not overlook any source of infrastructure emissions and this initiative is a strong step towards significantly reducing single family home emissions.”
“NYSBA is proud to support this Building Better Homes initiative that will enable builders and developers to meet increased performance requirements and build healthier homes for their customers,” Assemblymember Michael Cusick said. “NYSBA strongly believes that state financial investment plays an important role in providing builders and homeowners a cost-effective way to invest in energy efficiency.”
“The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is grateful for the work New York is doing to make homes healthier and safer for people affected by asthma and allergies, by improving indoor environments and removing emissions-emitting appliances within the home,” CEO and President of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Kenneth Mendez said. “Making healthier homes available will improve the lives of families in New York State and I hope will improve health outcomes for communities that are disproportionately impacted by asthma and allergies.”
“New York State and NYSERDA continue to be leaders in the effort to decarbonize the built environment, and we at Phius are proud to be working alongside them in an effort to bring healthier, more efficient homes to the residents of New York and beyond. We hope to see other states and municipalities continue to follow suit in the near future,” Executive Director and Co-Founder of Passive House Institute of the United States (PHIUS) Katrin Klingenberg said,
Building Better Homes is part of a multi-year investment to decarbonize single family home new construction, and subsequent phases of the program will provide funding for entire carbon neutral neighborhoods to be built, with a goal to increase home buyer demand for healthier carbon neutral homes by educating home buyers on the health and performance benefits. NYSERDA will launch the second phase of this program in mid-2022 with $10 million in funding as a design competition, similar to its successful Buildings of Excellence Competition, which awards exemplary carbon-neutral multifamily building designs. A third component of the program will launch in 2022 to build consumer demand by educating homebuyers on healthy and emissions free home construction.
Today’s announcement also advances recommendations included in New York State’s draft Carbon Neutral Buildings Roadmap, which identified building market capacity through training and technical support as a critical barrier to achieve scale for decarbonization in the new construction market.
Buildings are some of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in New York State, and integrating energy efficiency and electrification measures in existing buildings will reduce carbon pollution and help achieve more sustainable, healthy, and comfortable buildings. Through NYSERDA and utility programs, over $6.8 billion is being invested to decarbonize buildings across the State. In addition to the carbon benefits, these projects will also help the State achieve its ambitious energy efficiency target to reduce on-site energy consumption by 185 TBtu by 2025, the equivalent of powering 1.8 million homes.
This program is funded through NYSERDA’s $6 billion Clean Energy Fund.
New York State’s Nation-Leading Climate Act
New York State’s nation-leading climate agenda is the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation, calling for an orderly and just transition to clean energy that creates jobs and continues fostering a green economy as New York State recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is on a path to achieve its mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy wide carbon neutrality. It builds on New York’s unprecedented investments to ramp-up clean energy including over $33 billion in 102 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce buildings emissions, $1.8 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $1.6 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. Combined, these investments are supporting nearly 158,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector in 2020, a 2,100 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011 and a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035. Under the Climate Act, New York will build on this progress and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, while ensuring that at least 35 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed to disadvantaged communities, and advance progress towards the state’s 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs of end-use energy savings.
The Biden Administration, recognizing the pressure American families are under because of rapidly rising costs for food, gasoline and home heating oil, largely caused by the sudden surge in demand at a time when supply chains are still struggling under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has taken a number of steps to alleviate pressure. The administration has worked to alleviate the bottlenecks at major ports, facilitated hiring of truck drivers, and has relieved much of the pressure (Los Angeles port has 29 percent fewer containers waiting to be dispatched); Biden has directed the FTC to insure gas and oil companies are not gouging consumers, and now, the Biden Administration announced it would deploy American Rescue Plan funds to protect American families from home heating costs. Here is a fact sheet of the Administration’s actions on home heating costs – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Biden Administration Deploys American Rescue Plan Funds to Protect Americans from Rising Home Heating Costs; Calls on Utility Companies to Prevent Shut Offs This Winter
Unprecedented Funding and Partnerships with State, Local and Tribal Governments to Protect Vulnerable Homeowners and Renters
Today, the Biden-Harris Administration called on states, localities and tribes to plan early and coordinate across programs to effectively use historic American Rescue Plan resources to address home energy costs this winter. The White House also called on utility companies that receive public dollars to prevent devastating utility shut-offs this winter and help expedite the delivery of unprecedented federal aid.
The American Rescue Plan provides critical resources that states, localities and tribes can use to address home energy costs:
More than doubling available Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding: The recent average annual funding for LIHEAP is $3-4 billion, which typically serves 5 million households. The American Rescue Plan provided an additional $4.5 billion available until September 2022.
Delivering Emergency Rental Assistance—unavailable in previous winters—to help cover utility bills: First established last December—and provided an additional $21.5 billion in funding by the American Rescue Plan—Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs provide help with past-due utility bills or ongoing assistance with energy costs to help distressed renters avoid shut-offs and keep current on expenses. Even as most programs were just beginning to ramp up between January and June 2021, grantees made over 200,000 payments to support households with utility arrears and over 140,000 prospective utility payments.
Providing state, local and tribal governments additional resources to help energy-burdened middle-class families, including through the $350 billion State & Local Fiscal Recovery Fund: States and localities have the flexibility to use Fiscal Recovery Funds to help deliver energy relief to families, including for middle-class households that may not be eligible for programs directed to the lowest income consumers.
Today the White House called on Utilities and Energy Providers to Commit to Proactively Use Their Resources to Help
The Administration welcomed initial commitments from several utility companies including DTE Energy, Eversource, National Grid, NorthWestern Energy and Portland General Electric, as well as the delivered fuel trade association NEFI, that all agreed to the following:
Identify Eligible Recipients: Many utility companies already offer programs to help families in need. Utilities should proactively identify those who may be eligible for public benefits, such as LIHEAP and ERA, using financial hardship and other customer data. In order to help identify and prequalify customers for benefits, utilities can also use third-party data – such as whether a home is rented or owned and which census tract it is in – and data through partnership with government agencies including income or proxies, like eligibility for other programs. For example, in Connecticut, utilities are using third-party data to pre-qualify and contact customers, and share the results with state agencies to expedite energy assistance payments.
Directly Screen and Notify Potentially Eligible Recipients: Utilities and energy providers should inform customers of energy assistance programs, screen customers for benefits eligibility, and facilitate referrals to available benefits programs prior to any shut-offs.
Expedite Assistance to Vulnerable Households: Energy providers should be critical partners by proactively working to establish the processes and data-sharing relationships needed to speed benefits to their eligible customers as quickly as possible. For example, in Michigan, utilities work in partnership with the state to receive bundled payments on behalf of many customers at once, speeding processing and helping benefits quickly reach their customer’s accounts. In South Carolina, utility companies receive a bulk payment from the state prior to the full satisfaction of application and documentation requirements that they can use to apply benefits to customers quickly.
No Shutoffs for Customers Applying for Financial Hardship Assistance: Beyond state or local shut-off moratoria requirements, when utility companies are notified that a customer is applying for financial hardship assistance, including energy assistance benefits, they should commit to restore service or delay shut-off. For example, in Michigan, once a household applies for ERA utility benefits, the utility company places a hold on utility shut off. Utilities should also commit to provide at least 30 days’ notice to all customers before a shut-off.
Facilitate Assistance to Delivered Fuel Customers: In order to expedite benefits, providers of delivered fuels should commit to proactively notify families in distress of how to contact a state and local agency for assistance. Fuel providers with capacity should set up processes to facilitate referrals with customer permission. Fuel providers should prioritize deliveries to households approved for benefits, particularly where providers receive direct deposits credited to customer accounts prior to or immediately following delivery. Fuel providers with capacity should go even further by agreeing to deliver fuels to approved households through deferred payment or budgeting agreements.
Today the Administration also called on States, Localities and Tribes to:
Prepare Early to Distribute Expanded LIHEAP to More Families
Strong and Effective Winter Plans: The Administration is providing technical assistance to LIHEAP grantees to speed up state and local planning and program implementation for winter.
Quick and Automatic Distribution of Benefits: HHS is urging grantees to consider expediting payments to households that have benefitted from LIHEAP in previous years and simplifying eligibility verification. This option will not be appropriate for all grantees, but some states have already shown it can work. For example, Maine and New York are providing automatic payments to households who have received benefits in the past.
Expanded Outreach to Newly Eligible Households: HHS is urging grantees to consider additional outreach to households who need energy assistance for the first time this year. A significant number of households receive LIHEAP year after year, but as a result of the economic disruption of the pandemic and rising energy prices additional households are expected to need help. These households may be unfamiliar with how to access benefits, and grantees can help these families access the unprecedented LIHEAP resources available as well as refer to other benefits.
Coordination between LIHEAP, ERA and Other Programs: Given differences in eligibility, HHS and Treasury are clarifying how grantees of LIHEAP and ERA can coordinate to quickly provide benefits to eligible households. Coordination ensures support can reach a greater number of households, including those who do not qualify for LIHEAP due to their household incomes, people on fixed incomes, the elderly, and others in need. These best practices include coordinating outreach to households, establishing regular communication with program leaders and energy providers, streamlining intake, and referring across programs as appropriate. For example, rental households not fully served by LIHEAP could be referred to ERA, and homeowners could be referred to LIHEAP. Where available, the Homeowners Assistance Fund may be able to serve middle-class homeowner households.
Use of Emergency Rental Assistance to Aid Renters with Utility Costs
Provide Forward-Looking Assistance to Low-income Renters Facing High Energy Costs: The Treasury Department is encouraging grantees to take advantage of the flexibility to provide forward-looking utility assistance payments over the next several months to low-income families facing high heating costs, including for those renters who rely on delivered fuels to heat their homes. ERA grantees may also cover arrears and related fees for utility bills dating back to the start of the pandemic.
Lower Burdens and Speed Assistance to Distressed Renters Through Collaboration between ERA Program Administrators and Utility Providers: The Administration is facilitating cooperation between state and local governments and utility providers to identify customers at risk of energy insecurity and confirm household eligibility. To support this effort, the Treasury Department has issued guidance encouraging grantees to establish data sharing agreements and bulk payment methods with utility providers.
Expedite Payments Through Partnerships with Non-Profits to Prevent the Loss of Utility Services: When the rapid delivery of a payment could reasonably be necessary to prevent the loss of utility services, Treasury has provided grantees flexibility to partner with nonprofit organizations for the purpose of making immediate payments while a household’s application is still being processed.
Increased Home Heating Costs Can Qualify Income-Eligible Households for Needed Assistance this Winter. The Treasury Department is clarifying that elevated energy costs may be a form of COVID-19-related hardship that puts distressed renters at-risk of housing instability qualifying them for assistance with their utilities. Households can self-attest to experiencing both a COVID-related hardship and risk of housing instability based on significant increases in their home heating costs.
Use All Available Tools to Help Working and Middle-Class Families
State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund Can Help Families Ineligible for Other Support: States, localities and tribes can tap the $350 billion allocated by the American Rescue Plan to provide additional relief on home heating costs, particularly to middle-class households. For example, Louisville has supported a utility relief fund that provides residents who have fallen behind on gas or electric bills a one-time credit of up to $1,000.
$10 Billion Homeowners Assistance Fund to help Distressed Homeowners Keep Up with Utility Bills: Treasury is encouraging states, tribes and territories to utilize funds from this American Rescue Plan program to help cover home energy costs or prevent the loss of utilities this winter, including for hard-pressed middle-class families.
$1 Billion Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund: The American Rescue Plan also created a new fund for states, territories and tribes of which a substantial portion remains and is available to provide cash or utility-specific assistance to needy families.
The Administration also Highlighted Additional Financial Support Helping Hard-Pressed Families with Energy Costs:
1/3 of Families Using Child Tax Credit for Utility Bills: Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, the families of more than 61 million children are receiving expanded monthly Child Tax Credit payments up to $300 per child and nearly a third used it to pay for utilities –including home energy costs – between July and October 2021.
Weatherization Assistance to Reduce Energy Costs: The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act invests a historic $3.5 billion in the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, reducing energy costs for more than 700,000 low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes.
$100 million to Cover Rent and Utilities in Hard-Hit Rural Areas: The American Rescue Plan is providing financial support through September 2022 to over 26,000 overburdened rural households living in multi-family housing financed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Preventing Families from Choosing “Heat or Eat”: More low-income children and families face hunger when energy prices rise during winter as higher home heating costs eat up family budgets. The Biden-Harris Administration increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits on October 1 by an average of $36.24 per month, which will help to prevent this cruel tradeoff between heat and food this winter.
With the expiration of the CDC’s housing moratorium, President Joe Biden instructed key agencies to take actions to protect renters at risk of eviction. President Biden issued this statement:
“As the eviction moratorium deadline approaches tomorrow, I call on all state and local governments to take all possible steps to immediately disburse these funds given the imminent ending of the CDC eviction moratorium. State and local governments began receiving Emergency Rental Assistance funding in February and were eligible for an additional $21.5 billion passed in the American Rescue Plan. Five months later, with localities across the nation showing that they can deliver funds effectively – there can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic. Every state and local government must get these funds out to ensure we prevent every eviction we can. State and local governments can and should use both the Emergency Rental Assistance and their American Rescue Plan state and local funds to support policies with courts, community groups, and legal aid to ensure no one seeks an eviction when they have not sought out Emergency Rental Assistance funds. State and local governments should also be aware that there is no legal barrier to moratorium at the state and local level. My Administration will not rest – nor should state and local governments – until Emergency Rental Assistance dollars reach Americans in need.”
This joint statement from the Secretaries of USDA, HUD, VA, Treasury and the FHFA Acting Director on agency actions to prevent evictions following the expiration of the moratorium on evictions and the Supreme Court’s decision rendering the CDC unable to extend the moratorium, has been forwarded by the White House:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium is in place until July 31st, but the Supreme Court’s ruling made clear that CDC cannot extend the moratorium past its current expiration date. In light of that decision, the Biden-Harris Administration is taking steps to protect renters at risk of eviction. Today, at the President’s request, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) have extended their foreclosure-related eviction moratoria until September 30, 2021.
The President further asked our agencies, which play a significant role in providing and insuring affordable rental housing, to explore all available tools to keep American safe and housed. Through nearly 20 programs, financial incentives, tax credits, loans and guarantees, the federal government provides owners and operators of rental housing with significant support to provide housing to renters. As Secretaries of Agriculture, HUD, VA, and Treasury, and Acting Director of the FHFA, we recognize that our agencies provide the financial resources and incentives for federally-assisted and financed rental housing. We want to make clear that the owners and operators of this housing should make every effort to access Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) resources to avoid evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent. These resources are available in every state, and many counties and cities are also running local programs. Owners and operators of federally-assisted housing are stewards of important public resources and should access rental assistance both to prevent unnecessary human suffering and to protect the public investment in affordable housing.
The American Rescue Plan allocated an additional $21.5 billion for ERA that can be used by renters to cover rent and make landlords whole. This is on top of $25 billion allocated under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, bringing the total amount of ERA available to more than $46 billion and creating an economic, public health, and moral imperative for state and local governments to rise to the challenge of building a new infrastructure for getting ERA to vulnerable renters and landlords.
While few state and local agencies had ERA programs prior to this funding becoming available, the Administration has engaged in a whole-of-government effort to drive the distribution of these resources. Treasury has developed flexible program rules to make assistance easier to access, provided best practices for establishing effective programs, and communicated consequences for a lack of performance by state and local grantees.
To support Treasury as it implements the ERA program, HUD is providing technical assistance to HUD grantees and working with public housing authorities, private landlords, and tribal communities, to ensure that households and landlords participating in HUD’s federally-subsidized programs know the process for obtaining ERA, and that assistance is targeted to communities who need help the most.
The USDA is also committed to sharing ERA program information with rural communities. Within the USDA Multi-Family portfolio, there are approximately 65,000 tenants who do not receive rental assistance. Earlier this month, USDA sent letters to these tenants that included information on how to apply for the ERA program. Additionally, USDA has amplified the ERA program to over 250,000 online subscribers and rural leaders at the state and local level. USDA has also instructed Farm Service Agency and Rural Development State Offices to share ERA program hard copy materials with rural residents.
In addition to the direct and indirect steps VA is taking to help Veterans who are experiencing financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is providing a one-stop website to inform Veterans facing housing instability of the programs and resources across the federal government that are available to them.
The Administration has engaged in a whole-of-government approach – together with major nonprofits and companies – to amplify the availability of these resources. This effort has reached tens of millions of households to let them know that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created a locater tool to help landlords and tenants find a program in their jurisdiction.
The delivery of ERA is ramping up as a result of these efforts and the hard work of public servants in state and local governments across the nation. A total of $1.5 billion in assistance was delivered to more than 290,000 renters in the month of June alone. But state and local governments must do better. Money is available in every state to help renters who are behind on rent and at risk of eviction, as well as landlords.
Our country and economy are in a stronger position now than they were in January 2021, yet households across the country, especially those that are not vaccinated, remain vulnerable to COVID-19 and its associated impacts, including housing insecurity. Helping our fellow Americans, including our Veterans, keep their homes will go a long way in making sure that they have one less thing to worry about as they rebuild their lives coming out of this crisis and try to keep their loved ones safe.
In moving remarks, President Joe Biden, only the first sitting president to acknowledge the Tulsa Race Massacre of 100 years ago, tackled systemic, institutional racism and laid out a plan for economic justice including improving access to homeownership (the most significant factor in family wealth), investments in minority-owned small businesses and disadvantaged communities, and said he would act to preserve voting rights. He pointed to the most significant threat against domestic tranquility – White Supremacy and the rise of domestic terrorists – drawing a line from the Tulsa Race Massacre a century ago and today, and tackled the latest assault by right-wingers to whitewash history, rather than take responsibility.
“We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know. We should know the good, the bad, everything. That’s what great nations do: They come to terms with their dark sides. And we’re a great nation. The only way to build a common ground is to truly repair and to rebuild”
“Only with truth can come healing and justice and repair.”
Biden said, “And there’s greater recognition that, for too long, we’ve allowed a narrowed, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester — the view that America is a zero-sum game where there is only one winner. “If you succeed, I fail. If you get ahead, I fall behind. If you get a job, I lose mine.” And maybe worst of all, “If I hold you down, I lift myself up,” instead of “If you do well, we all do well.” (Applause.) We see that in Greenwood.
“This story isn’t about the loss of life, but a loss of living, of wealth and prosperity and possibilities that still reverberates today.”
He announced significant policies aimed at redressing generational discrimination:
“Today, we’re announcing two expanded efforts targeted toward Black wealth creation that will also help the entire community. The first is: My administration has launched an aggressive effort to combat racial discrimination in housing. That includes everything from redlining to the cruel fact that a home owned by a Black family is too often appraised at a lower value than a similar home owned by a white family…
“I’m going to increase the share of the dollars the federal government spends to small, disadvantaged businesses, including Black and brown small businesses” from 10 percent to 15 percent.
Biden laid out a plan to use infrastructure investments to specifically improve lives in historically disadvantaged communities.
Then the President turned to voting rights, which Congressman john Lewis called “precious,” “almost sacred”… “The most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society”.
Biden declared, “This sacred right is under assault with an incredible intensity like I’ve never seen.. It’s simply un-American. It is not, however, sadly, unprecedented,” and vowed to ”today, let me be unequivocal: we’re going to be ramping up our efforts to overcome again.” He said june would be a month of action, called upon voting rights groups to engage in voter registration campaigns and designated Vice President Kamala Harris as the point-person in his administration to get Congress to pass critical voting rights legislation, including the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
But returning to the Tulsa Massacre of 100 years ago, he said that violence resonates again in the rise of White Supremacy, Neo-Nazism, the resurrection of the KKK – the rise of hate crimes and terror against blacks, Asian-Americans, Jews – as was on display in Charlottesville NC that inspired Biden to run for president to “reclaim the soul of the nation.”
“Hate is never defeated; it only hides,” Biden declared. “And given a little bit of oxygen — just a little bit oxygen — by its leaders, it comes out of there from under the rock like it was happening again, as if it never went away. We must not give hate a safe harbor.”
“Terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today. Not ISIS, not al Qaeda — white supremacists” and promised to soon lay out “a broader strategy to counter domestic terrorism and the violence driven by the most heinous hate crimes and other forms of bigotry.”
Here is a highlighted transcript:
I just toured the Hall of Survivors here in Greenwood Cultural Center, and I want to thank the incredible staff for hosting us here. And — (applause) — I mean that sincerely. Thank you.
In the tour, I met Mother Randle, who’s only 56  years old. (Laughter.) God love her. And Mother Fletcher, who’s 67  years old. (Laughter.) And her brother — her brother, Van Ellis, who’s 100 years old. (Laughter.) And he looks like he’s 60. Thank you for spending so much time with me. I really mean it. It was a great honor. A genuine honor.
You are the three known remaining survivors of a story seen in the mirror dimly. But no longer. Now your story will be known in full view.
The events we speak of today took place 100 years ago. And yet, I’m the first President in 100 years ever to come to Tulsa — (applause) — I say that not as a compliment about me, but to think about it — a hundred years, and the first President to be here during that entire time, and in this place, in this ground, to acknowledge the truth of what took place here.
For much too long, the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness. But just because history is silent, it doesn’t mean that it did not take place. And while darkness can hide much, it erases nothing. It erases nothing. Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous they can’t be buried, no matter how hard people try.
And so it is here. Only — only with truth can come healing and justice and repair. Only with truth, facing it. But that isn’t enough.
First, we have to see, hear, and give respect to Mother Randle, Mother Fletcher, and Mr. Van Ellis. (Applause.) To all those lost so many years ago, to all the descendants of those who suffered, to this community — that’s why we’re here: to shine a light, to make sure America knows the story in full.
May 1921: Formerly enslaved Black people and their descendants are here in Tulsa — a boom town of oil and opportunity in a new frontier.
On the north side, across the rail tracks that divided the city already segregated by law, they built something of their own, worthy — worthy of their talent and their ambition: Greenwood — a community, a way of life. Black doctors and lawyers, pastors, teachers; running hospitals, law practices, libraries, churches, schools.
Black veterans, like a man I had the privilege to giving a Command Coin to, who fought — volunteered and fought, and came home and still faced such prejudice. (Applause.) Veterans had been back a few years helping after winning the first World War, building a new life back home with pride and confidence, who were a mom-and — they were, at the time — mom-and-plack [sic] — mom-and-pop Black diners, grocery stores, barber shops, tailors — the things that make up a community.
At the Dreamland Theatre, a young Black couple, holding hands, falling in love. Friends gathered at music clubs and pool halls; at the Monroe family roller-skating rink. Visitors staying in hotels, like the Stradford.
All around, Black pride shared by the professional class and the working class who lived together, side by side, for blocks on end.
Mother Randle was just six years old — six years old — living with her grandmom. She said she was lucky to have a home and toys, and fortunate to live without fear.
Mother Fletcher was seven years old, the second of seven children. The youngest, being Mr. Van Ellis, was just a few months old. The children of former sharecroppers, when they went to bed at night in Greenwood, Mother Fletcher says they fell asleep rich in terms of the wealth — not real wealth, but a different wealth — a wealth in culture and community and heritage. (Applause.)
But one night — one night changed everything. Everything changed. While Greenwood was a community to itself, it was not separated from the outside.
It wasn’t everyone, but there was enough hate, resentment, and vengeance in the community. Enough people who believed that America does not belong to everyone and not everyone is created equal — Native Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Black Americans. A belief enforced by law, by badge, by hood and by noose.
And it speaks to that — lit the fuse. It lit it by the spark that it provided — a fuse of fury — was an innocent interaction that turned into a terrible, terrible headline allegation of a Black male teenager attacking a white female teenager.
A white mob of 1,000 gathered around the courthouse where the Black teenager was being held, ready to do what still occurred: lynch that young man that night. But 75 Black men, including Black veterans, arrived to stand guard.
Words were exchanged. Then a scuffle. Then shots fired. Hell was unleashed. Literal hell was unleashed.
Through the night and into the morning, the mob terrorized Greenwood. Torches and guns. Shooting at will. A mob tied a Black man by the waist to the back of their truck with his head banging along the pavement as they drove off. A murdered Black family draped over the fence of their home outside. An elderly couple, knelt by their bed, praying to God with their heart and their soul, when they were shot in the back of their heads.
Private planes — private planes — dropping explosives — the first and only domestic aerial assault of its kind on an American city here in Tulsa.
Eight of Greenwood’s nearly two dozen churches burned, like Mt. Zion — across the street, at Vernon AME.
Mother Randle said it was like war. Mother Fletcher says, all these years later, she still sees Black bodies around.
The Greenwood newspaper publisher A.J. Smitherman penned a poem of what he heard and felt that night. And here’s the poem. He said, “Kill them, burn them, set the pace… teach them how to keep their place. Reign of murder, theft, and plunder was the order of the night.” That’s what he remembered in the poem that he wrote.
One hundred years ago at this hour, on this first day of June, smoke darkened the Tulsa sky, rising from 35 blocks of Greenwood that were left in ash and ember, razed and in rubble.
In less than 24 hours, 1,100 Black homes and businesses were lost. Insurance companies — they had insurance, many of them — rejected claims of damage. Ten thousand people were left destitute and homeless, placed in internment camps.
As I was told today, they were told, “Don’t you mention you were ever in a camp or we’ll come and get you.” That’s what survivors told me.
Yet no one — no arrests of the mob were made. None. No proper accounting of the dead. The death toll records by local officials said there were 36 people. That’s all. Thirty-six people.
But based on studies, records, and accounts, the likelihood — the likely number is much more, in the multiple of hundreds. Untold bodies dumped into mass graves. Families who, at the time, waited for hours and days to know the fate of their loved ones are now descendants who have gone 100 years without closure.
But, you know, as we speak, the process — the process of exhuming the unmarked graves has started. And at this moment, I’d like to pause for a moment of silence for the fathers, the mothers, the sisters, sons, and daughters, friends of God and Greenwood. They deserve dignity, and they deserve our respect. May their souls rest in peace.
[Pause for a moment of silence.]
My fellow Americans, this was not a riot. This was a massacre — (applause) — among the worst in our history, but not the only one. And for too long, forgotten by our history.
As soon as it happened, there was a clear effort to erase it from our memory — our collective memories — from the news and everyday conversations. For a long time, schools in Tulsa didn’t even teach it, let alone schools elsewhere.
And most people didn’t realize that, a century ago, a second Ku Klux Klan had been founded — the second Ku Klux Klan had been founded.
A friend of mine, Jon Meacham — I had written — when I said I was running to restore the soul of America, he wrote a book called “The Soul of America” — not because of what I said. And there’s a picture about page 160 in his book, showing over 30,000 Ku Klux Klan members in full regalia, Reverend — pointed hats, the robes — marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Jesse, you know all about this. Washin- — Washington, D.C.
If my memory is correct, there were 37 members of the House of Representatives who were open members of the Klan. There were five, if I’m not mistaken — it could have been seven; I think it was five — members of the United States Senate — open members of the Klan. Multiple governors who were open members of the Klan.
Most people didn’t realize that, a century ago, the Klan was founded just six years before the horrific destruction here in Tulsa. And one of the reasons why it was founded was because of guys like me, who were Catholic. It wasn’t about African Americans, then; it was about making sure that all those Polish and Irish and Italian and Eastern European Catholics who came to the United States after World War One would not pollute Christianity.
The flames from those burning crosses torched every region — region of the country. Millions of white Americans belonged to the Klan, and they weren’t even embarrassed by it; they were proud of it.
And that hate became embedded systematically and systemically in our laws and our culture. We do ourselves no favors by pretending none of this ever happened or that it doesn’t impact us today, because it does still impact us today.
We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know. (Applause.) We should know the good, the bad, everything. That’s what great nations do: They come to terms with their dark sides. And we’re a great nation.
The only way to build a common ground is to truly repair and to rebuild. I come here to help fill the silence, because in silence, wounds deepen. (Applause.) And only — as painful as it is, only in remembrance do wounds heal. We just have to choose to remember.
We memorialize what happened here in Tulsa so it can be –so it can’t be erased. We know here, in this hallowed place, we simply can’t bury pain and trauma forever.
And at some point, there will be a reckoning, an inflection point, like we’re facing right now as a nation.
What many people hadn’t seen before or ha- — or simply refused to see cannot be ignored any longer. You see it in so many places.
And there’s greater recognition that, for too long, we’ve allowed a narrowed, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester — the view that America is a zero-sum game where there is only one winner. “If you succeed, I fail. If you get ahead, I fall behind. If you get a job, I lose mine.” And maybe worst of all, “If I hold you down, I lift myself up,” instead of “If you do well, we all do well.” (Applause.) We see that in Greenwood.
This story isn’t about the loss of life, but a loss of living, of wealth and prosterity [prosperity] and possibilities that still reverberates today.
Mother Fletcher talks about how she was only able to attend school until the fourth grade and eventually found work in the shipyards, as a domestic worker.
Mr. Van Ellis has shared how, even after enlisting and serving in World War Two, he still came home to struggle with a segregated America.
Imagine all those hotels and dinners [diners] and mom-and-pop shops that could been — have been passed down this past hundred years. Imagine what could have been done for Black families in Greenwood: financial security and generational wealth.
If you come from backgrounds like my — my family — a working-class, middle-class family — the only way we were ever able to generate any wealth was in equity in our homes. Imagine what they contributed then and what they could’ve contributed all these years. Imagine a thriving Greenwood in North Tulsa for the last hundred years, what that would’ve meant for all of Tulsa, including the white community.
While the people of Greenwood rebuilt again in the years after the massacre, it didn’t last. Eventually neighborhoods were redlined on maps, locking Black Tulsa out of homeownerships. (Applause.) A highway was built right through the heart of the community. Lisa, I was talking about our west side — what 95 did to it after we were occupied by the military, after Dr. King was murdered. The community — cutting off Black families and businesses from jobs and opportunity. Chronic underinvestment from state and federal governments denied Greenwood even just a chance at rebuilding. (Applause.)
We must find the courage to change the things we know we can change. That’s what Vice President Harris and I are focused on, along with our entire administration, including our Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Marcia Fudge, who is here today. (Applause.)
Because today, we’re announcing two expanded efforts targeted toward Black wealth creation that will also help the entire community. The first is: My administration has launched an aggressive effort to combat racial discrimination in housing. That includes everything from redlining to the cruel fact that a home owned by a Black family is too often appraised at a lower value than a similar home owned by a white family. (Applause.)
And I might add — and I need help if you have an answer to this; I can’t figure this one out, Congressman Horsford. But if you live in a Black community and there’s another one on the other side of the highway — it’s a white community; it’s the — built by the same builder, and you have a better driving record than they guy with the same car in the white community, you’re — can pay more for your auto insurance.
Shockingly, the percentage of Black American homeownership is lower today in America than when the Fair Housing Act was passed more than 50 years ago. Lower today. That’s wrong. And we’re committing to changing that.
Just imagine if instead of denying millions of Americans the ability to own their own home and build generational wealth, we made it possible for them to buy a home and build equity into that — into that home and provide for their families.
Second, small businesses are the engines of our economy and the glue of our communities. As President, my administration oversees hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts for everything from refurbishing decks of aircraft carriers, to installing railings in federal buildings, to professional services.
We have a thing called — I won’t go into it all because there’s not enough time now. But I’m determined to use every taxpayer’s dollar that is assigned to me to spend, going to American companies and American workers to build American products. And as part of that, I’m going to increase the share of the dollars the federal government spends to small, disadvantaged businesses, including Black and brown small businesses.
Right now, it calls for 10 percent; I’m going to move that to 15 percent of every dollar spent will be spent (inaudible). (Applause.) I have the authority to do that.
Just imagine if, instead of denying millions of entrepreneurs the ability to access capital and contracting, we made it possible to take their dreams to the marketplace to create jobs and invest in our communities.
That — the data shows young Black entrepreneurs are just as capable of succeeding, given the chance, as white entrepreneurs are. But they don’t have lawyers. They don’t have — they — they don’t have accountants, but they have great ideas.
Does anyone doubt this whole nation would be better off from the investments those people make? And I promise you, that’s why I set up the — a national Small Business Administration that’s much broader. Because they’re going to get those loans.
Instead of consigning millions of American children to under-resourced schools, let’s give each and every child, three and four years old, access to school — not daycare, school. (Applause.)
In the last 10 years, studies have been done by all the great universities. It shows that, if increased by 56 percent, the possibility of a child — no matter what background they come from; no matter what — if they start school at three years old, they have a 56 percent chance of going all through all 12 years without any trouble and being able to do well, and a chance to learn and grow and thrive in a school and throughout their lives.
And let’s unlock more than — an incredible creativity and innovation that will come from the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. (Applause.) I have a $5 billion program giving them the resources to invest in research centers and laboratories and high-demand fields to compete for the good-paying jobs in industries like — of the future, like cybersecurity.
The reason why they don’t — their — their students are equally able to learn as well, and get the good-paying job that start at 90- and 100,000 bucks. But they don’t have — they don’t have the back — they don’t have the money to provide and build those laboratories. So, guess what? They’re going to get the money to build those laboratories. (Applause.)
So, instead of just talking about infrastructure, let’s get about the business of actually rebuilding roads and highways, filling the sidewalks and cracks, installing streetlights and high-speed Internet, creating space — space to live and work and play safely.
Let’s ensure access to healthcare, clean water, clean air, nearby grocery stores — stock the fresh vegetables and food that — (applause) — in fact, deal with — I mean, these are all things we can do.
Does anyone doubt this whole nation would be better off with these investments? The rich will be just as well off. The middle class will do better, and everybody will do better. It’s about good-paying jobs, financial stability, and being able to build some generational wealth. It’s about economic growth for our country and outcompeting the rest of the world, which is now outcompeting us.
But just as fundamental as any of these investments I’ve discussed — this may be the most fundamental: the right to vote. (Applause.) The right to vote. (Applause.)
A lot of the members of the Black Caucus knew John Lewis better than I did, but I knew him. On his deathbed, like many, I called John, to speak to him. But all John wanted to do was talk about how I was doing. He died, I think, about 25 hours later.
But you know what John said? He called the right to vote “precious,” “almost sacred.” He said, “The most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society”.
This sacred right is under assault with an incredible intensity like I’ve never seen — even though I got started as a public defender and a civil rights lawyer — with an intensity and an aggressiveness that we have not seen in a long, long time.
It’s simply un-American. It is not, however, sadly, unprecedented. The creed “We Shall Overcome” is a longtime mainstay of the Civil Rights Movement, as Jesse Jackson can tell you better than anybody.
The obstacle to progress that have to be overcome are a constant challenge. We saw it in the ‘60s, but with the current assault, it’s not just an echo of a distant history.
In 2020, we faced a tireless assault on the right to vote: restrictive laws, lawsuits, threats of intimidation, voter purges, and more. We resolved to overcome it all, and we did. More Americans voted in the last election than any — in the midst of a pandemic — than any election in American history. (Applause.)
You got voters registered. You got voters to the polls. The rule of law held. Democracy prevailed. We overcame.
But today, let me be unequivocal: I’ve been engaged in this work my whole career, and we’re going to be ramping up our efforts to overcome again.
I will have more to say about this at a later date — the truly unprecedented assault on our democracy, an effort to replace nonpartisan election administrators and to intimidate those charged with tallying and reporting the election results.
But today, as for the act of voting itself, I urge voting rights groups in this country to begin to redouble their efforts now to register and educate voters. (Applause.)
June should be a month of action on Capitol Hill. I hear all the folks on TV saying, “Why doesn’t Biden get this done?” Well, because Biden only has a majority of, effectively, four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.
But we’re not giving up. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed For the People Act to protect our democracy. The Senate will take it up later this month, and I’m going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal for its passage.
The House is also working on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is — which is critical — (applause) — to providing new legal tools to combat the new assault on the right to vote.
To signify the importance of our efforts, today I’masking Vice President Harris to help these efforts and lead them, among her many other responsibilities.
With her leadership and your support, we’re going to overcome again, I promise you. But it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work. (Applause.)
And finally, we have to — and finally, we must address what remains the stain on the soul of America. What happened in Greenwood was an act of hate and domestic terrorism with a through line that exists today still.
Just close your eyes and remember what you saw in Charlottesville four years ago on television. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the KKK coming out of those fields at night in Virginia with lighted torches — the veins bulging on their — as they were screaming. Remember? Just close your eyes and picture what it was.
Well, Mother Fletcher said when she saw the insurrection at the Capitol on January the 9th [6th], it broke her heart — a mob of violent white extremists — thugs. Said it reminded her what happened here in Greenwood 100 years ago.
Look around at the various hate crimes against Asian Americans and Jewish Americans. Hate that never goes away. Hate only hides.
Jesse, I think I mentioned this to you. I thought, after you guys pushed through, with Dr. King, the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act — I thought we moved. But what I didn’t realize — I thought we had made enormous progress, and I was so proud to be a little part of it.
But you know what, Rev? I didn’t realize hate is never defeated; it only hides. It hides. And given a little bit of oxygen — just a little bit oxygen — by its leaders, it comes out of there from under the rock like it was happening again, as if it never went away.
And so, folks, we can’t — we must not give hate a safe harbor.
As I said in my address to the joint session of Congress: According to the intelligence community, terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today. Not ISIS, not al Qaeda — white supremacists. (Applause.) That’s not me; that’s the intelligence community under both Trump and under my administration.
Two weeks ago, I signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which the House had passed and the Senate. My administration will soon lay out our broader strategy to counter domestic terrorism and the violence driven by the most heinous hate crimes and other forms of bigotry.
But I’m going to close where I started. To Mother Randle, Mother Fletcher, Mr. Van Ellis, to the descendants, and to all survivors: Thank you. Thank you for giving me the honor of being able to spend some time with you earlier today. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your commitment. And thank your children, and your grandchildren, and your unc- — and your nieces and your nephews.
To see and learn from you is a gift — a genuine gift. Dr. John Hope Franklin, one of America’s greatest historians — Tulsa’s proud son, whose father was a Greenwood survivor — said, and I quote, “Whatever you do, it must be done in the spirit of goodwill and mutual respect and even love. How else can we overcome the past and be worthy of our forebearers and face the future with confidence and with hope?”
On this sacred and solemn day, may we find that distinctly Greenwood spirit that defines the American spirit — the spirit that gives me so much confidence and hope for the future; that helps us see, face to face; a spirit that helps us know fully who we are and who we can be as a people and as a nation.
I’ve never been more optimistic about the future than I am today. I mean that. And the reason is because of this new generation of young people. They’re the best educated, they’re the least prejudiced, the most open generation in American history.
And although I have no scientific basis of what I’m about to say, but those of you who are over 50 — how often did you ever see — how often did you ever see advertisements on television with Black and white couples? Not a joke.
I challenge you — find today, when you turn on the stations — sit on one station for two hours. And I don’t know how many commercials you’ll see — eight to five — two to three out of five have mixed-race couples in them. That’s not by accident. They’re selling soap, man. (Laughter.) Not a joke.
Remember ol’ Pat Caddell? He used to say, “You want to know what’s happening in American culture? Watch advertising, because they want to sell what they have.”
We have hope in folks like you, honey. I really mean it. We have hope. But we’ve got to give them support. We have got to give them the backbone to do what we know has to be done. Because I doubt whether any of you would be here if you didn’t care deeply about this. You sure in the devil didn’t come to hear me speak. (Laughter.)
But I really mean it. I really mean it. Let’s not give up, man. Let’s not give up.
As the old saying goes, “Hope springs eternal.” I know we’ve talked a lot about famous people, but I’m — my colleagues in the Senate used to kid me because I was always quoting Irish poets. They think I did it because I’m Irish. They think I did it because we Irish — we have a little chip on our shoulder. A little bit, sometimes.
That’s not why I did it; I did it because they’re the best poets in the world. (Laughter.) You can smile, it’s okay. It’s true.
There was a famous poet who wrote a poem called “The Cure at Troy” — Seamus Heaney. And there is a stanza in it that I think is the definition of what I think should be our call today for young people.
It said, “History teaches us not to hope on this side of the grave, but then, once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice rises up, and hope and history rhyme.”