The vast majority of a $46.5 billion rental assistance fund sits unspent, despite one estimate that puts the number of renters in immediate danger of eviction at two million.
The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on Friday to examine the shortcomings of the fund, known as the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which had only distributed a fraction of its total funding by Aug. 1, according to the Treasury Department.
Federal and local officials, housing experts, landlords and tenants have cited an array of problems that slowed the flow of aid:
Bureaucratic missteps at all levels of government.
Resistance from landlords.
The reluctance of local officials to ease eligibility requirements for the poor.
Difficulty raising awareness that rental aid even existed.
A steep rise in rents that increased the incentive for kicking out low-income tenants.
Over the past several months, the White House and Treasury Department have been racing to deal with the program’s problems, repeatedly revising guidelines to allow tenants to receive payouts with a minimum of documentation, while enlisting state judges and even law school students to help tenants delay or prevent their evictions, report Glenn Thrush and Conor Dougherty of The New York Times.
Attempts to stave off evictions go back to last spring, when about $4 billion in rental assistance was tucked into the $2.2 trillion CARES Act signed last March by President Donald J. Trump. Unlike other federal emergency programs, like stimulus checks, which were mainly controlled by Washington, rental assistance was given to states and large cities and counties, which were free to design their own programs to suit their local needs.
How the program fell apart: From the beginning, local governments struggled with administrative headaches. Then the momentum stalled. READ THE FULL ARTICLE →