$2.3 Billion in Emergency Rental Assistance Went Out in August, Yet Nearly $39 Billion Remains Unclaimed

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More than 420,000 households received emergency rental assistance (ERA) in August, totaling more than $2.3 billion in payments, the Treasury Department announced today. This is up from the 340,000 households who received assistance in July. Since January, state and local governments have made more than 1.4 million ERA payments to households and distributed $7.7 billion.

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Last month’s $2.3 billion distributed represents roughly three times the amount spent in May. “While many jurisdictions have more work to do to meet the urgent demand for this relief in their communities, grantees saw significant growth in August –particularly among state and local agencies that adopted the Treasury’s recommended best practices,” the department said in the release. New Jersey, for example disbursed no funding in the first quarter, but spent 78% of its ERA allocation by the end of August, up from just 37% of its ERA allocation a month earlier.

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“As a result, the state more than doubled the number of households served in the month of August compared to July. New Jersey has adopted Treasury’s flexibilities on self-attestation, while also standing up a strong eviction diversion program infrastructure, including incorporating the ERA program into its eviction court system,” according to the release. “The state has also engaged in efforts to provide accessible support options to eligible households such as door-to-door efforts in low-income areas and the integration of ERA promotion into vaccine outreach efforts.”

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The Washington Post reports that only about $7.7 billion in rental aid has been distributed since January. “All told, Congress appropriated $46.5 billion for emergency rental aid between two aid packages. Of the $25 billion appropriated in December, roughly $7.5 billion has gone out the door. A March relief package provided the other $21.5 billion. About $222 million of that bucket had been spent as of August, according to Treasury,” the Washington Post says.

The Treasury Department adds that for context, the most recent Census Pulse survey suggests that approximately 3 million households expressed concern about imminent eviction. Of all these households, Census Pulse data also indicates that those with the lowest incomes are the most likely to be at risk of eviction. Of all households reporting that they are behind on rent, two-thirds of them earn less than $35,000 per year.

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Last month, the Treasury Department issued further policy clarity and recommendations meant to accelerate assistance, including clarifying that self-attestation can be used in documenting each aspect of a household’s eligibility for ERA. The goal is to avoid or reduce unduly burdensome documentation requirements for verifying income, provide assistance directly to tenants when landlords are not cooperative, and protect renters from eviction after payments are made on their behalf, the department said.

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Last updated: September 24, 2021

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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