Only 11% of the $46 billion in rental assistance authorized by Congress has been distributed by state and local governments even as millions of evictions loom, The New York Times reports.
The federal government has barred evictions since the beginning of the pandemic but with the Supreme Court expected to block President Joe Biden’s latest extension of the moratorium, the Treasury Department has prodded governments to quickly distribute the cash authorized back in March.
But state and local governments only distributed $1.7 billion in July and only about $5.1 billion has been distributed since the program was implemented.
“About a million payments have now gone out to families — it is starting to help a meaningful number of families,” Gene Sperling, a Biden administration official who oversees federal pandemic programs, told the Times. “It’s just not close to enough in an emergency like this to protect all the families who need and deserve to be protected. So there is still way more to do and to do fast.”
States struggle to distribute:
States have struggled to build out systems to distribute the aid, though payments began to ramp up in July and are expected to accelerate this month.
Some tenants have been stuck in limbo due to onerous reporting requirements to obtain the aid.
The Treasury Department on Wednesday said that states should allow tenants to self-attest that they qualify for the program, though officials stressed that local governments were to blame, including some that have been “reluctant” to take advantage of the new sped-up rules.
Some local officials have said they are concerned about potential fraud and audits even as the White House stresses that mass evictions are much more worrisome.
“They can and should use simpler applications, speedier processes and a self-attestation option without needless delays,” Sperling said.
States could lose aid:
States that have still not distributed much of the aid by the end of September could see their money reallocated to more efficient states.
But landlords have also posed an obstacle in certain cases, with some refusing to accept the money and demanding to evict tenants who failed to pay rent.
Administration officials are now intervening in state court to help deliver aid to renters, pressure landlords to accept the payments instead of evicting people, and educating tenants on navigating the application process.