The Effect of Emergency Rental Assistance on Household and Child Food Hardship

Housing instability and high housing costs are important factors that affect food insecurity, and are disproportionately present for Black, Latino, and single-parent households. Although the COVID-19 pandemic years (2021 and 2022) witnessed the largest allocation of funding for emergency rental assistance programs (ERAP) in U.S. history, we know little about the impact of these programs on children’s outcomes, and particularly on their health and nutrition.

About this study

This study is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and administered through Healthy Eating Research. As part of this work, Child Trends will gain insight into families’ experiences with ERAP through focus groups. Child Trends is analyzing Department of Treasury data to find out how ERAP affected food security among households with children.

Research questions

This study seeks to answer the following questions:

1) What are the effects of the ERAP on household and child food security among low-income renter households with children?

2) Do these effects vary by race/ethnicity and household structure?

3) How do ERAP participants perceive the role of ERAP in addressing their needs before, during, and after receiving ERAP benefits?

4) What are their continued needs as the program winds down?

Study goals

1) The quantitative analysis will identify the effects of the ERAP on food security.

2) The qualitative analysis will describe parents’ perceptions of how ERAP addresses their basic needs, food security, and financial well-being.

For goal one, we are using quasi-experimental methods to exploit state-level variation in the timing of implementation of the Department of Treasury ERAP (the largest program to date); we hope this will help us identify the effect of ERAP on food insecurity among households with children. For goal two, we are conducting focus groups with approximately 36 families participating in ERAP in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to understand how these financial supports addressed families’ basic needs and financial well-being, their perceptions of the ERAP, and the challenges that affected their food security and financial well-being.

Project team

Gabriel Piña (Principal Investigator)

Yiyu Chen (Co- Principal Investigator)

Elizabeth Villegas

Lauren Kissela

Sherri Castle