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Politics States, cities running out of rental assistance monies

01:55  30 november  2021
01:55  30 november  2021 Source:   msn.com

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Clark County's rental assistance program did not respond to a request for comment. Even as the pandemic fades, more than 10 million Americans, or 14% of U.S. renters, are still behind on their rent . Congress has allocated more than billion in assistance to help clear up these arrears and keep people "They're demanding things that many tenants don't have, like the landlord's email address, for example," said Dan Rose, an assistant professor of sociology at Winston-Salem State University and an organizer with Housing Justice Now. "They've also done a terrible job communicating with tenants."

Assistance for State , Local, and Tribal Governments. Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Renters and landlords can find out what emergency rental assistance covers, how it works, and who’s eligible on the interagency housing portal hosted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Several large states and cities have exhausted their federal rental assistance, the Treasury Department said Monday, in a sign that spending on a massive program aimed at averting evictions has picked up speed.

FILE - Gene Sperling, who leads the oversight for distributing funds from President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, on Aug. 2, 2021. The Treasury Department says several states and cities have exhausted their federal rental assistance in a sign that spending on a program aimed at averting evictions has picked up speed. The federal government is forecasting that upwards of $30 billion allocated for rental assistance will be disbursed by the end of the year. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Gene Sperling, who leads the oversight for distributing funds from President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, on Aug. 2, 2021. The Treasury Department says several states and cities have exhausted their federal rental assistance in a sign that spending on a program aimed at averting evictions has picked up speed. The federal government is forecasting that upwards of $30 billion allocated for rental assistance will be disbursed by the end of the year. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The federal government is forecasting that upwards of $30 billion or about two-thirds of money allocated for rental assistance will be disbursed or allocated by the end of the year. That is a dramatic change from this summer when housing advocates were complaining about the slow pace of distribution.

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Where rental assistance is getting distributed, it seems to be having its intended effect. We paired the records of new eviction filings from June and July collected by the Eviction Lab with the Treasury Department’s data on rental assistance distribution. We focused on areas in which the CDC moratorium was the only remaining eviction protection—excluding places like New York City and Austin, Texas, that had additional protections in place—and on jurisdictions in which only a single rental assistance program was available. Eviction filings over those two months, relative to the historical

The Treasury Department announced that states and cities can voluntarily return funds meant for federal rental assistance as it works to reallocate the funds to tenants facing eviction. Activists hold a protest against evictions near City Hall on August 11, 2021 in New York City . Treasury officials did not identify any places that could lose money, but the August data suggest there are a whole host of places that have been slow in getting money out . There was also an expectation that some money would be shifted, based on demand, once the program was up and running .

But with the improved outcome of the $46.5 billion program has come concerns that some tenants will not get help. The first tranche of emergency rental assistance funds, known as ERA1, is for $25 billion and the second, known as ERA2 and meant to be spent over a longer period of time, is $21.5 billion.

Texas has stopped accepting new applicants because it has allocated all its funds, while Oregon has stopped taking new applicants for now, the Treasury Department said. The state of New York has spent or committed nearly all of its money, as has Philadelphia. California has indicated it will soon exhaust its funds, while Atlanta has closed its program to new applicants.

More than 100 other state and local entities have indicated they have gone through almost all their ERA1 money and are beginning to spend down their ERA2 funds, Treasury said.

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States and cities that moved quickly to provide immediate relief with emergency funds last month have begun exploring longer-term solutions as the economic crisis deepens, including extending moratoriums on eviction and foreclosure. "We want to make sure we are getting out ahead of this. We are doing everything we can at the city level but we need that support at the state level." California Gov. Gavin Newsom's March eviction freeze gave renters additional time to respond to an eviction notice, extending the window from five to 60 days, but didn't stop landlords from serving eviction notices.

States are still slow to get federal rental assistance out to households. However, the money is moving faster in some areas of the country than others. Andrew Aurand , vice president for research at the housing coalition, said he ran into one application that was 45 pages long. Another required renters to document their income over the last six months. "They're demanding things that many tenants don't have, like the landlord's email address, for example," said Dan Rose , an assistant professor of sociology at Winston-Salem State University and an organizer with Housing Justice Now.

"There is a lot of work still to do to get funds out in a timely way to prevent avoidable evictions, but we are in a new phase." Gene Sperling, who is charged with overseeing implementation of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, said in an email interview.

“We now have the three largest states and many cities saying they have run through or will soon run through all of their ERA funds,” he continued. “Treasury is using the reallocation process to spur weak performers to up their game and to get more funds into the hands of those who can help the most vulnerable the fastest.”

Texas officials said its program had disbursed $1.5 billion and another $109 million was in the process of being paid. Over 263,000 households have gotten the funds, and another 21,000 have payments that are on the way.

“We have not received word of any additional funds being sent to us for distribution but we have asked Treasury for funds that may be redistributed from those that were not disbursed through other state, county or city programs,” Kristina Tirloni, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, said in an email.

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A billion federal rental assistance fund will soon be disbursed to states , allowing those struggling amid the Covid pandemic to apply for the money. By one estimate, 14 million Americans are behind on their rent during the crisis. Advocates say more rental assistance will be needed to stave off an unprecedented wave of evictions. After 10 months of record job losses and business shutdowns, rental arrears in the U.S. may be closer to billion. President Joe Biden is calling on Congress to allocate another billion in housing aid, and on his first day in office announced an executive order that will

Lawmakers have approved .5 billion in spending on rental assistance and Treasury is targeting the first tranche of money known as ERA1 which amounts to billion. States and cities are mostly allocating ERA1 money, which must be spent by Sept. 30, 2022. Allocation of the second installment Treasury officials did not identify any places that could lose money, but the August data suggest there are a whole host of places that have been slow in getting money out . There was also an expectation that some money would be shifted, based on demand, once the program was up and running .

The Oregon Housing and Community Services announced earlier this month that nearly all the $289 million in federal emergency rental assistance has been committed.

During a recent Senate Interim Committee On Housing and Development, Margaret Salazar, the director of Oregon Housing and Community Services, said that the “harsh reality” is that Oregon “just did not get enough resources to meet the needs” of the state to respond to the immediate crisis.

Although officials say that all the rental assistance has been requested, a significant chunk of the funds — $159 million — has yet to actually reach renters. The state has received nearly 51,000 complete applications for rental assistance but so far, just 43% of those who have applied have received funding.

New York has spent or committed $2 billion out of $2.4 billion after spending almost only $200 million through August.

But it also faces a challenge of getting money into the hands of tenants, with nearly $1 billion still held up over missing paper work. One big problem is matching the state is having trouble matching applications submitted by tenants with the landlords who own the property.

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Congress has authorized $46.5 billion in emergency rental assistance in a bid to thwart what was expected to be a wave of pandemic-related evictions.

The initial rollout of the federal program was plagued by slow disbursement, with administration officials publicly blaming state and municipal partners for bottlenecking the process with excessive bureaucracy often aimed at preventing fraud.

The more recent problem has been some parts of the country expending all their monies while others especially in parts of the South lagging behind.

That prompted Treasury to announce in October that it would soon start reallocating unspent monies.

Those entities that have not obligated 65% of their ERA1 monies or are found to have an expenditure ratio below 30% as of Sept. 30 based on a Treasury formula will face having the money reallocated. Grantees can avoid losing the money if they submit a plan by Nov. 15 showing how they will improve distribution or are able to get their distribution numbers above the 65% or 30% threshold.

There will also be the option of entities voluntary returning the money, with the goal that it could be redistributed to the same state, territory or tribal area. Treasury officials have not identified any places that could lose money.

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Associated Press writers Jamie Stengle in Dallas and Sara Cline in Portland, Oregon, contributed to this report.

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