Editorial Note: Forbes Advisor may earn a commission on sales made from partner links on this page, but this does not affect the opinions or ratings of our editors.
The Treasury Department announced that emergency rent assistance of $ 2.8 billion was distributed in September and more than $ 10 billion had been disbursed since the program began.
The higher payments could come at a much-needed time for vulnerable tenants, as the national moratorium on evictions is officially over and the eviction procedure is progressing.
But many tenants are still waiting for federal aid funds to help them catch up with late payments. According to a Treasury Department statement this week, only 40% of the initial rent assistance made available by the stimulus legislation has been distributed to people in need.
How to get help if you need emergency rental assistance
If tenants and landlords haven’t yet requested help with rent and utility costs, now is the time to do so.
State and local housing agencies can direct you to application forms or eligibility information. Or, you can search for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Directory aid programs.
Emergency assistance can be used to cover overdue rent and utility bills, as well as late fees and Internet service. It can also be used for moving expenses, administration fees or security deposits if you need to find new accommodation.
Assistance can be used towards any rent or utility bill since March 2020, and hotel stays may also be covered.
Many national and local requests for emergency rental assistance initially required documentation from the tenant’s landlord. And most programs required that the funds be sent directly to the landlord or utility, instead of giving the tenant money and allowing them to catch up on applicable bills.
These requirements have been relaxed in many places so that requests can be processed more quickly, but pay attention to instructions specific to your region.
When you request assistance, have all the documents relating to your situation handy for easy reference. This can include copies of invoices, letters from your property manager, or legal opinions.
Even if you hear that your area has put up a lot of its available housing assistance funding, that doesn’t stop you from applying for assistance. Many locations still expect to receive the remainder of their federal emergency rental assistance funding, meaning tenant assistance will continue through 2021 and into 2022.
Why emergency rental assistance has been so slow
Emergency initial rental assistance was approved in December 2020, but detailed guidelines for the distribution of funds were not provided to state and local beneficiaries until February 2021.
“It took a while for the rules to disappear, but [distribution of funds] had increased in late spring and early summer, ”said Doug Ryan, Acting Vice President of Policy at Prosperity Now, a nonprofit seeking financial stability for low- and middle-income populations .
Recipients who have signed up to distribute rental assistance funds (states, towns and tribes) have sent $ 10 billion as of September 30, reported the Treasury Department. This is on the $ 25 billion allocated to emergency rental assistance (ERA) of the second stimulus plan in December 2020.
The report does not include an additional $ 21.5 billion authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March 2021, which is now distributed to state and local beneficiaries.
About two million unique households have received funding since January, according to Treasury data.
Although much of the authorized rent assistance has not yet been spent, the distribution of the assistance is happening much faster than when it started in January 2021.
In January, about $ 282 million was disbursed, compared to about $ 1.7 billion in July. In August, $ 2.3 billion was distributed.
The treasury will start to reallocate unspent aid
To reduce the backlog of applications that have delayed aid delivery, the Treasury has urged states and municipalities to rely on self-attestation – a tenant statement – to determine need when documentation fails. is not readily available.
Emergency rent assistance programs are permitted to use these statements to verify financial hardship, risk of housing instability, and income.
National and local programs may also distribute funds to owners and eligible utility providers based on estimates of what is owed to them while they work to complete documentation requirements. They can provide additional rent payments to landlords who agree to sign tenants who have already been evicted or experienced homelessness.
Last month the Tools provided by the Treasury recipients on the basis of successful aid disbursement programs, essentially giving states and municipalities role models in processing requests and distributing aid.
But the pressure is there. From mid-November, the Treasury will begin to reallocate uncommitted rent assistance funds. While many of the roughly 500 state and local governments working to distribute the funds have sped up the processing of applications in recent months, others have not.
The department said it would try to reallocate the funds to communities in the same state they were originally sent to before looking elsewhere.
“Some states may say, ‘We don’t want this money, you can get it back,’” Ryan said. “It will be allocated to other states, but that means families from states that have not received money [to renters] will be punished.