State and local officials distributed $1.5 billion in rental assistance last month, the Treasury Department said Wednesday, as the government struggles to deliver the money before an eviction moratorium expires at the end of July.
Officials doled out just $3 billion over the course of the first half of the year, or roughly 6.6% of the $45 billion program intended to keep millions of renters in their homes. The Treasury Department said it served 290,000 households in June, up from 160,000 the previous month.
In total, it has provided relief to a fraction of the 1.2 million households that have reported being "very likely to face eviction in the next two months," the department said in a news release.
"State and local governments must do more to accelerate aid to struggling renters and expand programs to meet the scale of assistance needed," the Treasury said, adding: "While some state and local programs are increasingly reaching households in need, others lag far behind, and many programs have just launched in recent weeks. Money is available in every state to help renters at risk of eviction – and the urgency has never been greater."
There are some 110 million Americans living in rental households; an estimated 11 million renters – or about 15% – are behind on their rent and at risk of eviction, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
At the end of June, the Biden administration extended a federal pause on evictions by one month, delaying the end of the eviction moratorium – which was poised to expire on June 30 – until July 31, 2021. But it is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium, according to a news release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Congressional Democrats, local officials and other advocacy groups have been warning that when the pause lapsed at the end of the month, there could be a wave of evictions, in part because distributing $46 billion that lawmakers approved in rental assistance between December and March for both renters and landlords has proved difficult.
How much money tenants and landlords receive hinges on several factors, including income and location. In some cases, individuals may get enough money to cover rent from March 2020. The problem, however, is that many states and cities did not have the necessary equipment in place to distribute the money and as a result, have struggled to dispense it.
The CDC first instituted the eviction freeze last September in order to stave off what experts warned could become the most severe housing crisis in decades.
In order to be protected from eviction, renters need to submit a declaration form certifying that they meet certain requirements, such as earning less than $99,000 in 2020 or 2021. Individuals must also attest that they are unable to pay their rent due to a coronavirus-related job loss or income reduction and that if they are evicted, will likely become homeless or moved into congregated housing.
The Legal Innovation and Technology lab at Suffolk University Law School created an interactive tool to help tenants determine whether they're eligible for the protection. It can also generate a declaration to give to landlords.