Elections & Government
Congress sent $25 billion to state and local governments in emergency rental assistance but less than 13% of the money made it into the hands of renters as of the end of June, according to data from the Treasury Department.
While the Emergency Rental Assistance fund passed at the end of 2020 and money from the program went to local governments early this year, some local governments are struggling to get the funds where they’re needed. The latest data shows just over $3 billion distributed so far. Congress approved an additional $20 billion for the program in March. Data on this second round of funds is not yet available.
Meanwhile, about 15% of US households could not pay rent in July, according to the US Census Household Pulse Survey. A higher proportion of Black, Hispanic, and Asian renters are unable to pay for rent; some of this population is eight or more months behind. The eviction moratorium, set by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, protects certain tenants from being evicted. It has been extended until October 3 in areas of high transmission of COVID-19.
The first round of rental assistance totaled $25 billion and was divided amongst state and local governments primarily by population. To qualify for relief, households must have filed for unemployment benefits or experienced income reduction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Households at immediate risk of homelessness or deemed low income can also apply. Funds can go toward rent or cover utilities like electricity, gas, and water. Renters who qualify for assistance can receive funds for up to 18 months.
Some large local governments, such as New York City and Los Angeles County, redirected funds to the state governments for distribution. Other localities distributed money directly to local renters. Texas and Virginia have spent more than a third of their assistance funds. New York distributed less than 1% of assistance, the lowest in the nation.
The number of households granted assistance increased month by month in the first half of the year. About half of states had an application portal set up by April and all but five states began accepting applications by the end of May. Households receiving assistance almost doubled in June. Over 25% of those were in Texas, with almost 70,000 households approved in June.
About 15% of renters are behind on rent as of the end of July, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. Out of that group, 29% lost employment income in the previous four weeks.
A higher percentage of non-white renters had struggles making rent in July. More than 25% of Black renters did not pay last month’s rent, followed by Asian and Hispanic renters both at 19%.
The Household Pulse Survey also asked about confidence in the ability to pay next month’s rent. About 28% of respondents were not at all confident or slightly confident about being able to pay. That increased to about 52% among respondents who had experienced a loss of employment in the last four weeks. Four out of 10 Hispanic or Latino renting households were highly uncertain about their ability to pay next month’s rent.
Of the 15% of renters behind on monthly payments, about a third are one month behind, according to the Household Pulse survey. Sixty-seven percent of those who can’t make rent are two or more months behind.
The more backrent someone owes, the more likely they are to be evicted. For example, respondents seven months behind on rent show almost an 80% certainty that they will be evicted in the next two months.
Learn more about the eviction moratorium's impact in this article on the demographics of renters in America.
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