As another month’s rent comes due, appropriated relief is finally making its way to tenants
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Come Tuesday, the first of June, the rent is due for millions of Americans. After more than a year of this pandemic, a lot of them have fallen behind and are struggling to pay rent. Congress has appropriated $50 billion in rental assistance to help these renters out in the last two COVID-19 relief packages.
Where is it?
That money is just starting to make its way to tenants and landlords. “Communities are in different places across the country,” said Ann Oliva with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Oliva said it’s taken time for states, cities, counties and non-profits to get new systems in place to distribute the money. But: “Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen a big ramp up of programs starting over the entire country,” she said.
There are now nearly 400 rent relief programs accepting applications, according to Andrew Aurand at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Every state has opened their program except for New York, and then the others are either county or city programs,” Aurand said.
But there are still a lot of barriers to getting money out quickly, he said. For one? Most applications require a lot of documentation from tenants. On top of that, many programs won’t provide assistance to a tenant if their landlord refuses to participate, Aurand said, even if the tenant applies and is eligible.
The Treasury Department just changed its guidance on that; programs will now be required to help tenants who qualify –– even if their landlords won’t participate.
The city of Philadelphia has gone even further. Landlords there can’t evict tenants until they’ve applied to the city for rent relief. Vincent Reina with the Housing Initiative at Penn said that provides the opportunity for the city “to then determine whether the household’s eligible and offer resources to help cure the back rent that’s owed.”
That’s likely, Reina added, to keep more people in their homes.
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