The Treasury Department said Friday that state and local officials distributed just a fraction of emergency rental assistance at the end of August as delays continue to beset the program eight months after its creation.
Officials have disbursed just $7.7 billion – or roughly 17% – of the $46.5 billion program intended to keep millions of renters in their homes, the department said in a news release. The money served 420,000 households in August, up from 340,000 in July.
"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.
There are some 110 million Americans living in rental households; an estimated 8 million renters – or about 7% – are behind on their rent and at risk of eviction, according to the latest Census Bureau data from the first half of September. Of those, more than 3 million said they were very or somewhat likely to be evicted in the next two months.
The Biden administration extended an eviction ban for millions of renters in early August after immense pressure from progressive lawmakers, but the Supreme Court struck the moratorium down weeks later in an unsigned, eight-page opinion. The justices argued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had exceeded its authority with a two-month order pausing evictions in parts of the country experiencing "substantial" or "high" spread of the coronavirus. The court’s three liberal justices dissented.
"It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts," the majority wrote, adding: "If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it."
A coalition of 60 House Democrats have urged Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to revive the ban, calling on them in a letter to extend the pause on evictions as part of an upcoming must-pass spending bill. They argued the spread of the highly contagious delta variant increased the need for tenant protections.
Still, House Democrats were unable to secure enough votes to pass a bill extending the ban earlier this summer, facing opposition from moderate members of their own party. Even if they drummed up enough support, the moratorium would almost certainly die in the 50-50 Senate.
The ban has also created financial hardship for many landlords.
According to an analysis from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, almost half of the country’s rental units are owned by individual investors landlords, or so-called "mom-and-pop" landlords, who depend on the money as part of their income.