Helping Renters Stay Put: Responding to the COVID-19 Housing Insecurity Crisis
The financial shocks associated with COVID-19 have brought housing insecurity to the forefront of our national consciousness. Renters and homeowners have both faced hardship and dealt with tenuous holds on their homes as the pandemic continues, but researchers are beginning to recognize the unique ways that renters have suffered during the crisis. A study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University describes the overlapping set of challenges that renters have faced through COVID-19. With half of renters losing income through joblessness and reduced hours, and a full 40% of renters losing half of their income, renters relied on eviction moratoriums and other financial assistance programs to stay in their homes during the pandemic.
The federal government mandated a moratorium on evictions during COVID-19, but that moratorium is set to expire in June of this year. An April 2021 study by the Urban Institute shows that while the nation’s $60 billion in accumulated rental debt has been offset by over $300 billion in allocated emergency housing assistance, renters continue to struggle, and local and state housing counselors have become increasingly crucial support systems for renters facing potential eviction this summer.
SpringFour has been following the needs of renters closely and has seen a major uptick in demand for rental resources, especially in Q1 of 2021. Rental Resources is now the 4th most in-demand category, accounting for 15% of all SpringFour referrals in Q1 2021. The SpringFour team has responded quickly to the changing landscape of rental assistance, quickly incorporating the new Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs into its database.
“Our focus on the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Programs that are beginning to accept applications at the state, county, and city level is a perfect example of how the SpringFour Resource Integrity Team works. Because there is no centralized ERA access point and the program rollout has been confusing, SpringFour users rely on us to point them in the right direction. In addition to immediately researching, vetting, and adding programs to our database, we are continually analyzing our tools and working with our subscribers to ensure that this unique offering is elevated for easy access by counselors, agents, renters, and landlords.”
— Cassandra Compton, VP of Data Integrity & User Experience, SpringFour
Housing counselors are at the forefront of helping renters stay in their homes, and SpringFour is pleased to highlight the commitment and dedication of one of its partners, Money Management International (MMI), to step up and provide resources that can fight housing insecurity for renters across the country. Our report, Overcoming Housing Insecurity One Family at a Time: A Case Study of SpringFour and Money Management International, highlights how a partnership like this can be a crucial stopgap for renters seeking assistance in a confusing and challenging time. As noted by the President and CEO of MMI:
“Our vision is to make life affordable for everyone, but sometimes financial coaching and debt management alone aren’t enough to make ends meet. Because rent and utility costs represent some of the most common household expenses, our clients often find themselves needing more help in these areas. For clients unable to meet their obligations, referral to legal services is often to review them for possibly bankruptcy and to avoid home foreclosure.”
— Jim Triggs, President and CEO, MMI
We applaud the on-the-ground leaders who are helping renters stay in their homes and having profound impacts on those families’ financial health and security. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are ongoing, and renters face increasing housing insecurity as evictions are set to rise this summer. As we work to stave off this impending housing crisis, we recognize that we are all in this together.
“At the end of the day, our mission and housing counselors’ missions are the same: to see people succeed, stay in their homes, and become financially healthy. People need access to trustworthy advisors, resources and programs. This makes all the difference in a person’s success on their financial health journey.”
— Rochelle Gorey, Co-Founder and CEO, SpringFour
VP of Research & Impact, SpringFour
One Year Post-COVID-19: SpringFour Looks Back
In the year since COVID-19 lockdowns began, more financial institutions than ever before have committed to their customers’ financial health. Together with banks, lenders, employers, and nonprofits, SpringFour is proud to be part of the solution, delivering almost 3.8 million financial health referrals to individuals in need in the past year.
Like everyone around the country, the SpringFour team was thrown into our new reality just over a year ago. There was no way for anyone to predict just how long the lockdown restrictions would continue – and that we would still be dealing with the aftermath, particularly the financial shocks, today.
“Like so many others, the dark cloud of lay-offs and furloughs directly hit me in early 2020. I was faced with figuring out how to pay my utility bills, mortgage, and prescription costs with a loss of household income. Assistance and support from companies were not readily available and phone calls to customer support were met with hours on hold and no real answers. SpringFour’s solutions allow real people, no matter their background, economic class, or education level, a way to get back on track to financial health. When people are faced with job loss, paying prescriptions out of pocket, or any additional family expenses, SpringFour makes trusted resources accessible nationwide.”
– Maggie Kaiser, Client Success Manager, SpringFour
Our staff actually grew within a few months of the pandemic. While everything changed around us in an instant, and we acclimated to being at home with our families during work and school, adjusting our daily rituals, and hoping our loved ones stayed safe, we found ourselves busier than ever at SpringFour.
The mission of SpringFour has always been to provide resources to people who need assistance in a time of financial difficulty. We believe that families deserve help when they have fallen on hard times, and recognize that it can be extremely challenging to know where to go to get that help. Our research shows us that 83% of households would like to get financial assistance from their bank, but at the same time, a minority of households know where to go for financial assistance. So when COVID-19 hit, we knew people and companies would need SpringFour more than ever – and we knew that we were in a unique position to help.
We immediately brought our experienced Resource Integrity Team together, and in just days, we added hundreds of resources. Within a month, we built three new COVID-specific categories containing over 3,000 local resources focused on food savings, financial support, and healthcare assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even before the extent of the pandemic was clear, the SpringFour Resource Integrity Team swung into action. In addition to the challenging task of looking for pop-up and ad hoc resources, we were also faced with closures and changes to the organizations that we feature in our database. The advantage of a small organization powered by experienced community development and social services professionals is that we were able to completely shift our focus to the needs in front of us. That meant developing new resource categories and creating a financial assistance guide that has been referred over 260,000 times. Every single person on our team is dedicated to providing accurate and helpful information to people in need – that’s what kept us going through a challenging year.”
– Cassandra Compton, VP of Data Integrity & User Experience, SpringFour
While it is a sobering reality that 1 in 10 Americans found themselves facing food insecurity due to the pandemic – many of them for the first time – it is a privilege to be a part of the solution in providing access to affordable and healthy food. And while high unemployment levels impacted families, and record numbers of women left the workforce to care for their children who could not go to school, SpringFour was grateful to be in a position to help thousands of those families weather the storm.
“As someone who has researched financial health, economic systems and economic development for more than 20 years, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a unique financial shock due to its ongoing impact and widespread reach. Suddenly, financial crises were impacting families who had never experienced such acute need before, for reasons outside of any individual family’s control. The pandemic uncovered what those of us in the financial health field have long known to be true: we are all one crisis away from financial catastrophe. And there should be systems in place to help.”
– Katy Jacob, VP of Research & Impact, SpringFour
The need was not only widespread – it was immediate. SpringFour reduced its deployment time to less than 15 days in response to the high number of new clients we took on during the pandemic who needed fast emergency assistance for their customers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is an event that caused immediate and unexpected chaos – impacting and disrupting lives and businesses. As a SpringFour team, we knew we had to act quickly and figure out a way to respond to pressing financial needs by delivering our solutions faster than we ever had before. Presented with this challenge, SpringFour was able to streamline its deployment processes, enabling current clients to expand and new clients to onboard within a two week window. This efficiency focus by our SpringFour team showcased our role as a leader in delivering financial health and amplified the social mission we share with our valued client partners.”
– Scott Freeze, Chief Operating Officer, SpringFour
Our clients became close partners in delivering financial health solutions to families in crisis. Together with banks, lenders, nonprofit agencies, and employers, we prioritized financial health for millions of individuals, making it possible for them to find the support they needed when they needed it most.
“At SpringFour, we have always viewed our subscribers as our partners. As our subscribers saw their customers’ needs rise, we strengthened those partnerships to make sure we could help them meet those needs. Whether it was repositioning their S4direct applications to draw attention to much needed resources, adding new categories to meet these new needs, or incorporating new scripting strategies to address new challenges, we worked closely with our subscribers to quickly get the most needed resources into the hands of struggling customers. We know that our partners see SpringFour as a key resource to show compassion and provide real solutions to their customers. We were honored to continue to do this as the COVID crises overwhelmed so many.”
– Katie Donohue, VP of Strategy & Engagement, SpringFour
Together with our clients, in the year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we helped provide:
- 700,485 food assistance resources
- 473,089 employment resources
- 328,738 utility assistance resources
- 268,033 rental assistance resources
These resources help millions of people keep food on the table, find jobs or apply for unemployment, and stay in their homes with their lights and heat turned on. While families struggled, we dedicated ourselves to providing a way out of that struggle. We know that the impacts of COVID-19 are not over, and will be far-reaching. But even without a global pandemic, there has always been and will always be a need to help families in financial distress. SpringFour remains committed to that mission, in partnership with like-minded banks, lenders, nonprofits, and employers.
“While this past year was harder than any one of us could have imagined, I am deeply grateful for my team at SpringFour who worked tirelessly even when their own lives were in upheaval to ensure people had the help they needed. I am proud that companies of all sizes and shapes chose SpringFour to be their trusted partner in providing COVID-19 assistance. I am inspired by the way our industry came together to serve those in need and I am hopeful that brighter days are ahead. The silver lining is that financial health solutions have moved to the top of the priority list and we are going to come out of this with a roadmap to enable people to achieve financial health.”
– Rochelle Nawrocki Gorey, Co-Founder & CEO, SpringFour
VP of Research & Impact, SpringFour