The covid-19 pandemic has pushed tens of millions of Americans to the brink of eviction, revealing a gaping hole in our social safety net. The Cares Act, a federal eviction moratorium, and state and local renter protections have thus far held back a catastrophic wave of eviction and homelessness. But this crisis is forcing policymakers to reckon with the systemic risks posed by widespread housing instability. Previous crises have prompted the creation of the “automatic stabilizers” we take for granted — such as unemployment insurance and nutritional assistance — which protect individuals and prevent broader economic collapse. In that vein, we propose a new federally funded, locally administered rental assistance program providing short-term emergency funds to keep people in their homes and reduce the costly collateral damage of forced moves, evictions and homelessness.