Federal Rental Assistance Is Running Out, With Tenants Still in Need

An announcement from the Treasury Department on Friday revealed that there was less money available for renters than some states had hoped.

A landlord in Louisville, Ky., carried furniture out of a rental property as the sheriff’s office executed a September eviction. 
A landlord in Louisville, Ky., carried furniture out of a rental property as the sheriff’s office executed a September eviction. Credit…Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar/USA Today Network

By Sophie Kasakove and Glenn ThrushJan. 7, 2022

A $46 billion federal program enacted by Congress to prevent evictions during the coronavirus pandemic got off to a sluggish start last year, but is now distributing cash so quickly that many states are running out of money, endangering millions of struggling tenants who depend on the support.

On Friday, the Biden administration announced that 665,000 households had received aid through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program in November, the most ever for any month, bringing the total distributed or planned to be spent to between $25 billion and $30 billion, according to the Treasury Department.

But that success means that several states, including New York, Texas and Oregon, have already used up nearly their entire share of federal funding from the program.

And the new numbers underscore the reality that the federal government’s largest-ever attempt to prevent evictions was never intended to be a long-term solution. Funds for struggling renters will soon disappear unless Congress renews funding, which is highly unlikely.

“There is tremendous uncertainty now, especially for renters,” said Vincent Reina, a professor of urban planning at the University of Pennsylvania who has helped design aid programs in Philadelphia. “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.”

Those who have already received rental assistance can keep it. But renters who want to file for the first time or reapply may be out of luck.

Many states had expected a major boon this month, as the Treasury Department shifted $1.1 billion from states that had been slow in distributing funds.

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