The Emergency Rental Assistance Program Is Running out of Money — What Should You Do if You Face Eviction?

close up shot of eviction notice.
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A federal rental assistance program implemented to help struggling families during the COVID-19 pandemic is running short of money after barely more than a year, leaving renters in some parts of the country facing eviction unless they can come up with other options.

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New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington, D.C., are among the places that have either closed their rental assistance programs down or put them on hold because the funds have been used up, CNBC reported.

More than $45 billion in rental assistance money was included in stimulus packages passed by Congress in December 2020 and March 2021, making it the largest program ever to specifically target people in danger of eviction.

In November alone, about 665,000 households received aid through the Emergency Rental Assistance program, The New York Times reported. That was the highest total ever for a single month — and brought the total either already distributed or planned to be spent at somewhere between $25 billion and $30 billion.

Make Your Money Work for You

The program got off to a slow start, with many states dragging their feet in getting the funds distributed. But now the money is being spent so quickly that struggling tenants in some states no longer have access to federal rental assistance. And with many lawmakers anxious to move away from COVID-era stimulus programs, it’s unlikely that a new round of rental assistance will be passed.

“There is tremendous uncertainty now, especially for renters,” Vincent Reina, a professor of urban planning at the University of Pennsylvania, told The New York Times.

“Historically, we have had a nonexistent housing safety net nationally. Then we suddenly have this allocation of resources, and we build this whole new infrastructure. Now it’s about to go away, and we have no idea if it will ever be rebuilt.”

Related: Here’s How To Get Back To Renting After an Eviction

What to Do if You Are Facing Eviction

Renters who face eviction but no longer have access to Emergency Rental Assistance program funds do have a few options, however.

Make Your Money Work for You

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends that you first contact your landlord as soon as possible to discuss payment options. You should be open about your financial situation and share how your income has been affected by COVID-19 or other problems. Be clear about your needs; mention any resources or options you’ve found that could be helpful; ask for flexible payment arrangements or payment plans; and keep a written record of your conversations, including emails and text messages.

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Here are some other suggestions provided by HUD to avoid eviction:

  • Research state or local protections: Some states and municipalities have placed stricter limitations on evictions since the beginning of the pandemic. For more information, call 211 — a free, nationwide service that connects callers to local resources. You can also visit the non-profit Eviction Lab website, which provides information about state and local eviction protections.
  • Learn about income recertification: This is available to those who live in HUD-assisted (public) housing or receive HUD housing vouchers. If you get rental assistance from HUD, you can report any decreases in wages, job hours and family income that might temporarily decrease income-based rent payments or increase housing subsidies.
Make Your Money Work for You

For more help, visit HUD’s eviction prevention resources page.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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