Finance

Just 6.5 percent of rental aid has reached tenants, landlords: Treasury

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Roughly $3 billion of the $46 billion allocated for emergency rental aid has been used to cover rent, utilities and other related expenses with less than two weeks until a federal eviction ban expires.

Data released Wednesday by the Treasury Department shows a sharp jump in the number of households assisted by the federal emergency rental aid (ERA) program in June. Treasury said 290,519 households received rental aid last month, up from 156,943 in May, 101,315 in April and 84,676 in March for a total of 633,453.

Even so, just 6.5 percent of the billions distributed to state and local grantees has been used to prevent evictions, leaving the vast majority of aid untapped before a critical deadline.

“This represents significant progress, but there is still much further work to go to ensure tenants and landlords take advantage of the historic funding available to help cover rent, utilities, and other housing costs and keep people in their homes,” Treasury said in a Wednesday statement.

Millions of renters are facing eviction when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium expires on Aug. 1 and will be on the hook for rent and utilities that accrued during the eviction ban. The rental aid program is intended to help renters cover those costs, allowing them to either strike a deal to stay in their current apartment or find other housing as soon as possible.

More than 4.7 million Americans are not current on their housing payments and expect to be evicted or foreclosed on within two months, according to a survey conducted by the Census Bureau between June 23 and July 5. Roughly 8 million also said they don’t expect to make their next housing payment on time, boosting the pressure on the Biden administration to get rental aid out.

Treasury has disbursed all $46 billion to the state and local organizations designated to distribute the money to renters and landlords. But administration officials and advocates have blamed inconsistent rules set by the Trump administration and logistical challenges at the local level for the hold-up in aid.

“Rental assistance has reached only a small fraction of the families who report being behind on rent and at high risk of eviction when the moratorium expires next week, and there remain dozens of states and cities that have distributed little to no assistance to renters in need,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in a Wednesday statement.

“Some communities are spending their money quickly and well, making those that haven’t all the more glaring and unacceptable,” she added.

While Yentel praised the Biden administration for streamlining the program, Republican lawmakers have blasted Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge for the lack of quicker progress.

“This is the poster child for why hardworking taxpayers are so critical of big government, bureaucratic programs like this,” said Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) during a House Financial Services Committee hearing Tuesday.

“I can understand why taxpayers would be concerned if they are at risk of being evicted. There’s no question about that,” Fudge responded.

Tags Andy Barr Brian Deese CDC eviction moratorium COVID-19 eviction Housing crisis Housing in the United States Janet Yellen Marcia Fudge

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