Congress: Clyburn Calls On States To Speed Up Delivery Of Emergency Rental Assistance

mmediate action to speed up the distribution of emergency rental assistance funds

Photo: Urban Institute

Washington, D.C. (August 30, 2021) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent letters to the governors of five states—Wyoming, Alabama, South Dakota, Arkansas, and North Dakota—urging immediate action to speed up the distribution of emergency rental assistance funds.

The letters seek details on how the states will follow the guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury on how to expedite distribution, and urge each state to employ Treasury’s recommended practices for distribution amid persistent delays. According to data compiled by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, these five states have been the slowest in the nation to distribute rental assistance to aid families at risk of eviction.

Chairman Clyburn wrote to each governor: “The slow distribution of assistance funds by some state governments leaves millions of families in danger of losing their homes. Although relief payments, expanded unemployment, rental assistance, and the improving economy appear to have relieved some distress, a significant number of renter households are still in jeopardy.”

Congress took unprecedented action to prevent the pandemic from precipitating an eviction crisis. In the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, Congress appropriated $25 billion for emergency rental assistance grants to be distributed by state, local, and tribal governments. The American Rescue Plan provided an additional $21.55 billion in emergency rental assistance funds to be distributed by state and local governments. Although many state and local programs are now ramping up distribution of much-needed aid, as of July 31, 2021, these programs had only disbursed about $4.9 billion of the over $46 billion Congress allocated for rental assistance to aid renters in need according to data released by the Department of Treasury last week.

According to National Low-Income Housing Coalition data, Wyoming, Alabama, South Dakota, Arkansas, and North Dakota have each distributed less than three percent of the initial tranche of federal rental assistance funds provided to those states. This slow distribution comes in the face of dire need. In Wyoming, nearly 25,000 renters were behind on rent as of August, but the state’s rental assistance program has aided only a little more than 1,000 households. In Alabama, over 55,000 renters reported a likelihood of eviction in the next two months, but the state program has helped only a little more than 3,500 households. In Arkansas, an analysis of Census data showed that over 20 percent of renters in 29 counties owed back rent, but the state program has distributed less than 2.5 percent of its initial allocation of assistance funds as of early July.

Chairman Clyburn wrote, “The slow distribution of rental assistance funds by state governments can hardly be attributed to a lack of federal support … I urge you to take action to speed distribution of rental assistance without delay. Implementing best practices for streamlining rental aid delivery, like the ‘Promising Practices’ the Treasury Department has identified for simplifying the application process and conducting outreach to renters and landlords, could help improve distribution.”

In July, the Subcommittee launched an investigation and held a hearing to assess evictions carried out by corporate landlords during the pandemic, urge compliance by corporations, and develop best practices for the distribution of federal emergency rental assistance. The Chair requested that governors provide information by September 7, 2021 on steps each state is taking to improve distribution of federal rental assistance funds.

Click here to read today’s letter to Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon.

Click here to read today’s letter to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.

Click here to read today’s letter to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem.

Click here to read today’s letter to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.

Click here to read today’s letter to North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

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