Just 11 Percent of Federal Rental Assistance Issued Through July, Treasury Department Says

Just 11 percent of the funds available for federal rental assistance have been issued through July, the Treasury Department said Wednesday. The department's report signals continuing issues in distributing the tens of billions of available dollars as many Americans struggling to pay rent are at risk of eviction.

The rental aid has reached almost a million households, and the speed of dispersion increased from June to July, according to recent data. However, concerns were raised that many could face evictions as they await assistance, and the Supreme Court ponders a challenge to the federal eviction moratorium.

Lawmakers authorized $46.5 billion to allocate toward federal rental assistance earlier in 2021, the Associated Press reported. Of those funds, $5.1 billion were distributed through July, an increase from the $3 billion delivered through June and the $1.5 billion delivered by the end of May.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Tenants' Rights Advocates Protest
Just 11 percent of the federal rental assistance funds approved earlier in 2021 have been distributed, raising eviction concerns for Americans struggling to pay rent. Above, tenants' rights advocates demonstrate in front of the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston on January 13. Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

Several states, including Virginia and Texas, have been praised for moving quickly to get the federal money out. But many others have still only distributed a small percentage of the rental help.

Housing advocates blame the slow rollout partly on the Treasury Department under President Donald Trump that they say was slow to explain how the money could be spent. The criteria, while clearer under the Biden administration, was still criticized for a burdensome process that seemed more focused on preventing fraud than helping tenants.

Advocates also said states made things worse—some waited months to set up programs and others created bureaucratic hurdles.

The Treasury Department has repeatedly tweaked its guidance to encourage states and local governments to streamline the distribution of the funds. The Biden administration has also asked states to create eviction diversion programs that aim to resolve disputes before they reach the courts.

On Wednesday, Treasury released additional guidance to try to speed up the process. They are encouraging programs to allow tenants to self-assess their income and risk of becoming homeless among other criteria. Many states and localities, fearing fraud, have measures in place that can take weeks to verify an applicant qualifies for help.

Treasury also said states and localities now can distribute money in advance to landlords and utility providers "in anticipation of the full satisfaction of application and documentation requirement." And they approved providing money for tenants who have outstanding rental debt in collection, which would make it easier for them to find new housing.

"For those cities and states that wanted even more clarity that they can and should use simpler applications, speedier processes and a self-attestation option without needless delays—this answers that call," said Gene Sperling, who is charged with overseeing implementation of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package.

"The guidance could not be more clear in expressing that this is a public health and eviction emergency that requires putting quick and sound rental relief above unnecessary paperwork that will not reach families in time."

The administration also announced measures aimed at averting evictions at federally back housing, including 400,000 rental units in Department of Agriculture–backed multifamily properties. It also is offering additional rental assistance to at-risk veterans and their families and working to ensure tenants in public housing can access rental assistance.

Eviction Protestors in NYC
Of the $46.5 billion federal rental assistance approved by lawmakers earlier in 2021, $5.1 billion was distributed through July. Above, activists hold a protest against evictions near New York City Hall on August 11. Spencer Platt/Getty Images