Many states have spent lower than 5% of rental assist
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Tenant Sabrina Floyd waited months to find out if she and her family were approved for assistance by the Clark County Rental Assistance Program in Las Vegas.
She often asked her case officer for updates and received the same response: “Thank you for your continued patience during these difficult times,” the email reads. “We are still processing your application.”
Then on June 9th, she learned that she had been refused because she had not provided a necessary document in time. She wondered what document the officers were referring to. Nobody said there was anything missing from their application.
“It never took us more than 48 hours to respond to a query,” said 27-year-old Floyd. “I am frustrated.”
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And now she worries that she and her 3 year old daughter Emeri will be evicted.
The Clark County’s Rental Assistance Program did not respond to a request for comment.
Even as the pandemic subsides, more than 10 million Americans, or 14% of US renters, are still behind on their rent.
Congress has provided more than $ 45 billion in assistance to clean up this residue and keep people inside their homes, but the delivery of the money has been slow in many states. The first funding package was adopted in December and the second in March.
Sabrina Floyd and her daughter Emeri.
Courtesy Sabrina Floyd
Housing advocates attribute the delays to unnecessarily complicated paperwork and tedious and unclear requirements.
“They ask for things that many renters don’t have, like the landlord’s email address,” said Dan Rose, assistant professor of sociology at Winston-Salem State University and organizer of Housing Justice Now. “They did a terrible job of communicating with the tenants too.”
Rose estimates that only about 5% of the rental subsidies allocated to Winston-Salem and Forsyth Counties in North Carolina have now gone to tenants.
The slow rollout will have dire consequences for people, he said: “[It’s] the eviction crisis will worsen in the coming months. “The national eviction ban expires in two weeks.
Aid is progressing slowly across the country.
State and local distribution programs that deviate from the intentions of Congress and include discounts or caps on subsequent rents, leave it to renters to unfairly absorb the debt.
Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Apartment Association
For example, the Colorado state program has only approved or distributed 1.5% of its funding, according to data provided by the National Low Income Housing Coalition to CNBC. Wyoming’s program has now only provided 0.1% of its aid.
Brett McPherson, a spokesperson for the Colorado state program, said the federal funding “requires significant documentation from both the renter and the landlord.”
“We are continually working to improve the implementation of the federal program, but we are required by federal law to collect certain documentation before approving payments,” said McPherson.
Wyoming’s program did not respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees rental assistance funding, has issued guidelines stating that programs should take troubled tenants at their word if they cannot offer a particular document, said Andrew Aurand, vice president of research with the National Low Income Housing Coalition .
But only about half of the 400 programs that are spending the money across the country allow this so-called self-certification and make the availability of this option clear to applicants, Aurand found.
“These documentation requirements are a barrier to the same tenants who are likely to need this assistance most,” he said.
Landlords are also frustrated with the introduction of the aid.
“State and local distribution programs that deviate from the intent of Congress to put discounts or caps on re-leases leave it to rental housing providers to unfairly absorb the debt and ultimately threaten the future of housing affordability,” said Greg Brown , Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the State Housing Association.
Karrington Gathings was recently denied rental assistance in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for failing to provide the required documentation.
Despite receiving a monthly disability check from Social Security and showing no drop in income due to the pandemic, her fiancé helped her pay the rent and he has recently struggled to find a steady job. As a result, they have fallen behind and face eviction.
Gathings, 21, would love to take a remote job that would allow her to be at home with her two young sons Kaeson and Karson, but she found it difficult to do so as she had had vision problems since she was 10 .
“Every time I reveal my disability, they always have an excuse or a reason why I am unsuitable,” she said. “Or they don’t want to offer the accommodations that I need.”
The details of her situation may be a little more complicated than others, she said, but her need for help is no less real.
“We really don’t have the money,” said Gathings. “How should I pay my rent?”