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The US Treasury said about $30 billion in emergency rent assistance (ERA) payments were sent in February and that most of the remaining money will be distributed by mid-year.
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In an announcement Wednesday, the agency said state and local ERA grantees have made more than 4.7 million payments to families as part of the program, which was launched two years ago during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the “vast majority” of the remaining funds due to be released by mid-2022, the Treasury will share the ERA2 reallocation process with state and local donors. ERA2 is an expansion of the program under the US bailout.
The agency said its approach to reallocating ERA2 funds is “designed to ensure that as many low-income renters as possible receive this assistance during the pandemic.”
As GOBankingRates previously reported, more than $45 billion in rent assistance money was included in the stimulus packages passed by Congress in December 2020 and March 2021, making it the largest program ever to specifically target people at risk of eviction.
After a slow start in which many states delayed the distribution of money, payments were sent at a much faster rate so far in 2022, which is causing some states to run out of money. Treasury officials called on state and local governments to expand their programs to help still-struggling renters.
“In just one year, the Emergency Rent Assistance Program has created a national eviction prevention infrastructure that did not exist before and has helped keep eviction rates well below historical rates throughout the pandemic,” Deputy Minister Adewal Adeemo said in a press release. “With these emergency funds running out, now is the time for state and local governments to take advantage of this infrastructure to provide services like right-to-counsell programs and housing advisors that will help families avoid economic scars long after COVID-19 has a back-view mirror.”
An analysis from Princeton University’s Eviction Lab published earlier this month found that millions of renters avoided eviction in 2021 due to federal rental assistance programs. The analysis also found that low-income, majority-black neighborhoods that typically see a disproportionate proportion of evictions have the largest absolute decline in filings.
As part of Wednesday’s announcement, the Treasury Department unveiled key elements of its approach to reallocating state and local grants. Given the limited amount of ERA1 funds remaining for the reallocation, the agency said it “expects only one round of ERA1 reallocation from initial state, local and regional allocations, which will occur later this spring and is based on expenditure and liability statements through March 31, 2022.”
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The agency said it further intends to “take back a portion of the uncommitted funds from the recipients, leaving grantees with the amount of ERA1 funds they’ve spent in their strongest quarter to date. This reallocation aims to ensure that ERA1 funds are spent by the September 2022 statutory deadline.” while continuing to direct the excess funds to the donors most in need.”
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