More rent subsidies reach tenants to avoid evictions

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(AP) – Almost a month after a federal moratorium on evictions ended, the Treasury Department said on Friday that states and cities had distributed money for nearly 1.4 million payments in August, and that the pace had accelerated compared to the previous month.

More than 16.5% of the tens of billions of dollars in federal rent assistance reached tenants last month, up from 11% in July. The latest data from the department, which oversees the program, also revealed that states and cities that have been slow to launch their programs are now sending tens of millions of dollars.

Treasury officials admitted that they were not happy with the total distribution. But they insisted that what has come out so far represents significant numbers and that the money has an impact to help keep families in their homes.

The latest update comes as pressure mounts to distribute the money more quickly after the Supreme Court authorized the resumption of evictions in late August. The conservative majority in the court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a temporary freeze put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although evictions have not increased in most communities, there are fears that millions of tenants eligible for assistance will be evicted before the money arrives. As of September 13, nearly 3.3 million people said they were very or somewhat likely to be deported in the next two months, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. In the investigation, which ran through August 30, more than 3.6 million people said they were at risk of deportation.

Lawmakers have approved $ 46.5 billion in spending on rent assistance, but so far states and cities are primarily allocating the first $ 25 billion, which must be spent by the 30th. September 2022. The allocation of the second tranche of $ 21.5 billion, can go until September 30, 2025.

Treasury officials said strong signs of progress came from New Jersey, New York and South Carolina, which struggled to launch their programs. New Jersey, for example, sent no money in the first quarter, but has now distributed 78% of its first installment money and doubled the number of households served in August compared to July.

Spending in Florida fell from $ 60.9 million in July to $ 141.4 million in August, while South Carolina fell from $ 10.6 million to $ 25.3 million. New York saw a jump from $ 8.5 million to $ 307 million.

Among cities and counties, New York, Los Angeles and Miami-Dade County in Florida collectively reached nearly 27,000 households and spent more than $ 347 million in August, up from $ 800,000 in May.

But there were latecomers.

Ohio, which started off strong, saw its distribution drop slightly. Kentucky saw a slight decline in spending, from $ 13.1 million in July to $ 11.9 million in August. Iowa distributed just $ 7 million in August.

“Almost 1.5 million families assisted is a significant step forward, but the overall rate of emergency rent assistance spending remains too slow,” said Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in a statement. communicated.

Housing advocates blamed the slow deployment to the Treasury Department under President Donald Trump, saying his administration was slow to explain how the money could be spent. They say the Biden administration’s guidelines are clearer, but the process still seems more focused on preventing fraud than helping tenants.

The Treasury Department attributed the increase in spending in August to changes that allow tenants to assess their income and risk of becoming homeless, among other criteria. Many states and local governments, fearful of fraud, have measures in place that can take weeks to verify that a claimant is eligible for help.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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