Most rental aid funds have yet to be distributed, figures show

$ 46.5 billion rent assistance program created to pay rents accrued during pandemic continues to pay money at a slow pace , as the White...


$ 46.5 billion rent assistance program created to pay rents accrued during pandemic continues to pay money at a slow pace, as the White House prepares for Supreme Court order who could hit a new national moratorium on evictions.

The emergency rental assistance program, funded under the two federal pandemic relief programs adopted over the past year, failed in July, with just $ 1.7 billion distributed by governments state and local, according to the Treasury Department, which oversees the program.

The money disbursed was a modest increase from the previous month, bringing the total aid disbursed so far to around $ 5.1 billion, according to figures released early Wednesday, or about 11% of the money allocated by Congress to avoid an eviction crisis that many housing experts now consider increasingly likely.

That money was to be spent over three years, but White House officials – who spent months lobbying local officials and tweaking the program to make it easier to access – had hoped states would have spent. much more to date.

“About a million payments have now gone to families – this is starting to help a significant number of families,” said Gene Sperling, who oversees the operation of federal pandemic relief programs for President Biden.

“It is simply not enough in an emergency like this to protect all the families who need and deserve to be protected. So there is still a lot to do and to do quickly, ”he added.

To speed things up, the Treasury announced another round of changes to the program, including a directive to local authorities that they allow tenants to use self-reported financial information on aid requests first rather than as a last resort. , while granting state permission to send bulk payments to homeowners and utility companies in anticipation of federal payments to tenants.

They also expand on existing initiatives to prevent evictions from properties funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The actions came as Mr. Biden’s domestic policy staff defined political contingencies if the Supreme Court overturns the moratorium, which is the main guarantee of the administration for the hundreds of thousands of low-income and working-class tenants hardest hit by the pandemic. White House lawyers are awaiting a court ruling this week.

The answer will be mainly to redouble efforts to speed up the flow of aid. But officials are likely to switch to a yard model, focusing on a handful of states and cities that have weak tenant protections, high arrears of unpaid rents, and low use of the federal rent assistance fund. .

The moratorium was initially implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last September under President Donald J. Trump. Mr Biden extended it several times this year, but allowed it to expire briefly earlier this month. He reinstated it, in a slightly modified form, on August 3. under pressure from congressional Democrats.

This last 60-day extension, adopted despite the objection of White House lawyers, aimed to gain more time to distribute emergency rental aid.

The program is administered by the federal government, but it is up to the states to put in place a system of assistance to tenants and landlords in difficulty, and this has been the main source of its problems.

Officials from the Treasury Department and the White House, speaking on a conference call Tuesday night, admitted that the program was not picking up speed enough to prevent a wave of deportations entirely, even as judges l ‘allowed to remain in place until its scheduled expiration date in October. 2.

[Read more on why it’s been so challenging getting aid to renters.]

But they also cited progress. State and local agencies began to steadily increase payments to hundreds of thousands of households at risk of eviction, most of them going to low-income tenants. They also believe the pace of payments continued to accelerate in August.

Administration officials continue to blame the program’s difficulties on local officials, many of whom are reluctant to take advantage of the program’s new fast-track application process, which allows tenants to self-certify on applications, freeing them from the need to provide detailed documentation.

The new directive stressed that applicants can “self-certify” to declare their eligibility for housing assistance without needing additional documents. The Treasury Department believes this will speed up the process by reducing red tape.

The Treasury Department has also taken steps to enable nonprofits to provide relief more quickly to tenants facing eviction.

In recent weeks, local officials have complained that going too fast in requests for help can lead to errors, fraud and audits; the White House responded by telling them that these risks are insignificant compared to a wave of evictions hitting tenants who did not get their help quickly enough to keep a roof over their heads.

“They can and should use simpler applications, faster processes, and a self-attestation option without unnecessary delays,” added Mr. Sperling.

Several states, including Texas, have been particularly effective in scaling up their aid delivery systems, officials said. But many others – especially New York, Florida, Tennessee, Ohio and South Carolina – have been slow, making tenants particularly vulnerable to displacement once the moratorium is lifted, they said.

So far, New York has spent only about 0.3% of its allocated funds, the worst performance of any state, followed by South Carolina at 0.9%, Wyoming at 1.2% and Florida at 1.8%, according to spending analysis by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a national tenant advocacy group.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who was sworn in this week, said speeding up the system is one of its main priorities.

States that did not use their money much by the end of September could see their funds reallocated to other States that were able to distribute it more efficiently.

It will take weeks for local housing courts to clear the backlog of eviction cases delayed by the moratorium. But many landlords, especially small landlords, have rejected federal aid, arguing that evicting non-paying tenants is not only their right, but the most effective way to ensure their income is not interrupted. in the future.

Last week, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo traveled to Hyattsville, Md., To speak with landlords, tenants and administrators of a successful rent assistance program using self-reported claims and census data to determine eligibility for rent relief. money.

Administration officials, worried that a new moratorium could be lifted at any time, are also turn to state courts – who settle tenant-landlord disputes – to help provide assistance, by lobbying landlords to accept federal payments instead of evictions, and by educating tenants, who don’t often no legal representation in court, on their right to seek help.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Most rental aid funds have yet to be distributed, figures show
Most rental aid funds have yet to be distributed, figures show
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