Housing

Roughly 90 percent of federal rental aid still untapped: Treasury

Only 11 percent of federal rental aid has made it into the hands of tenants, landlords or utility companies, according to data released Wednesday by the Treasury Department.

The department revealed that just $5.1 billion of the $46 billion in rental and utility assistance allocated by the government has been used to prevent evictions for roughly 984,000 households. Most of the aid is still being held by the state and local groups responsible for distributing it.

State and local organizations provided aid for more than 340,000 households in July, a gain of 50,000 from the previous month, with about $1.7 billion in allocated aid. But the program has failed to reach millions of tenants facing eviction upon the October expiration of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s eviction moratorium.

"Too many grantees have yet to demonstrate sufficient progress in getting assistance to struggling tenants and landlords. After September, programs that are unwilling or unable to deliver assistance quickly will be at risk of having their rental assistance funding reallocated to effective programs in other high-need areas," the Treasury Department said in a statement Wednesday.

The latest CDC eviction ban is set to expire Oct. 3 but could be struck down by the Supreme Court within days and leave millions at risk of eviction. While some residents may be covered by other federal, state or local eviction protections, millions may lose their homes and face a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 amid the surge of the highly contagious delta variant.

The Biden administration has blasted state and local groups for failing to disburse the vast majority of aid, leading the White House earlier this month to extend eviction protections on shaky legal ground. While the administration has sought to fix bureaucratic and technical snags, officials have been largely unable to make a significant dent in the backlog.

"From the first weeks of the Administration, Treasury actions have allowed for the accelerated delivery of ERA and encouraged grantees to avoid or reduce unduly burdensome documentation requirements for verifying income, provide assistance directly to tenants when landlords are not cooperative, and protect renters from eviction after payments are made on their behalf," the department said Wednesday.

Republican lawmakers say President Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen bear responsibility for delays and failing to create a long-term solution.

"Democrats have no real plan to fix this problem, which Republicans have been sounding the alarm on for months. Instead of continuing to kick the can down the road, we should address this avoidable crisis once and for all by fixing the Biden Administration's absolute failure to administer the ERA programs," said Rep. Patrick McHenry (N.C.), the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, in a statement after the CDC imposed the new eviction ban earlier this month.

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