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As rent comes due, millions of Americans are already thousands behind

Samantha Fields Mar 1, 2021
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"Very little" of the $25 billion in rental assistance approved by Congress has reached renters and landlords, a housing coalition CEO says. Scott Olson/Getty Images

As rent comes due, millions of Americans are already thousands behind

Samantha Fields Mar 1, 2021
Heard on:
"Very little" of the $25 billion in rental assistance approved by Congress has reached renters and landlords, a housing coalition CEO says. Scott Olson/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

This being the first of the month, rent is due, and almost exactly a year into the pandemic, millions of Americans are behind on their rent by an average of $5,000 or $6,000 each, according to a couple of different estimates.

The last round of COVID-19 relief approved back in December included $25 billion in rental assistance.

But that assistance is taking a while to get to tenants — and landlords — who need it.

It’s been more than two months since Congress approved that $25 billion in assistance.

But so far?

“Very little has gotten to renters and landlords yet,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which has been tracking rental assistance programs.

As of today, 15 states and about two dozen local governments have started accepting applications, “but I expect that to pick up pretty significantly in the coming days and weeks,” Yentel said.

State and local governments had been waiting for the Treasury Department to finalize rules for the program. And it did, last week, said Daniel Brennan, the director of MaineHousing, the state’s housing authority.

“We got the guidance on Monday, and here we are the following Monday with our program up,” he said.

Maine is now accepting applications for its $200 million rental assistance fund. 

Brennan said he thinks that will be enough to meet the need in the state — for now. 

“People are allowed to apply for past-due rent or rent they weren’t able to pay going back to the beginning of the pandemic, whatever that dollar amount is,” he said.

Mainers can also apply for help with up to three months of future rent.

Douglas Rice at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said federal rental assistance will go a long way toward getting struggling tenants and landlords caught up. 

“It’s very significant,” Rice said. “It’s really an unprecedented amount of rental assistance to address an unprecedented problem.”

And, Rice said, if the next round of COVID-19 relief gets through the Senate as is, there will be nearly $20 billion more in rental assistance coming.

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