State and local officials have managed to dole out just $3 billion of the over $46 billion in rental aid allocated by Congress for the coronavirus pandemic, according to Treasury Department data released Wednesday, as the looming expiration of the federal eviction moratorium at the end of this month prompts mounting criticism of the Biden administration’s management of the aid program.
The Treasury Department reported more than $1.5 billion in assistance was delivered to eligible households in June, more than all the aid delivered over the previous three months combined.
It was disbursed to 290,000 households, an 85% increase from the 160,000 aided in May and triple the roughly 100,000 served in April.
The Treasury Department attributed this jump to the progress of cities and states building out the infrastructure they need to more quickly disperse funds.
The department also praised the work of the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program, which it said is helping with the development of programs that will be “able to scale quickly.”
While the Treasury Department touted its progress, many have been offering a less rosy assessment of the program, which has so far served just over 633,000 of the millions it was intended to help. The Treasury Department has distributed all the approved funds to state and local grantees. However, both Republicans and Democrats pressed Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge on the slow disbursal of aid—and whether the federal government can be doing more—during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Tuesday.
“If we don’t get those resources flowing, there’s going to be a bunch of folks in a terrible jam come sunrise on Aug. 1,” said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), referencing the scheduled expiration of the eviction moratorium July 31. Meanwhile, Kentucky Rep. Andy Barr (R) deemed the ERA “the poster child for why hardworking taxpayers are so critical of big government, bureaucratic programs like this.”
Fudge responded to the criticisms by insisting HUD and Treasury have been doing all they can to push through rental aid before the eviction moratorium expires. “The money was held up because [state and local grantees] didn’t have the assistance or capacity to get it out fast enough,” she said. “So what we have been doing—personally, I have been calling mayors and governors and others to say, ‘We’ve got to get the money through the system.’”
Congress approved a total of $46.5 billion in rental aid over two coronavirus relief bills to help millions of Americans facing eviction amid the pandemic. Renters were also supported by the federal eviction freeze enacted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as a patchwork of protections enacted by state and local governments. However, many of these protections have since expired and millions of Americans are still behind on rent. “People need immediate relief,” Will Fischer, the senior director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told Forbes. “States and localities should continue moving as quickly as possible to get families the emergency assistance they need.”
7.4 million. That’s how many tenant households reported being behind on rent in June, according to survey data from the Census Bureau. Some 3.6 million said they were “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to face eviction in the next two months.