Squad calls for more rapid distribution of federal rental assistance funds

Washington DC – The Treasury Department on Wednesday revealed that only a small percentage of federal rental assistance funds has been distributed so far.

August 2021: Housing advocates gather on the steps of the Capitol to demand the extension of the federal evictions moratorium.
August 2021: Housing advocates gather on the steps of the Capitol to demand the extension of the federal evictions moratorium.  © IMAGO / NurPhoto

The amount of aid already distributed accounts for only around 11% of the $46.5 billion in allotted federal funds, the Associated Press reported.

Though around a million households have received assistance, Census data shows that about 3.5 million people face eviction in the next two months, as of August 16.

The situation is more dire in some states and communities as compared to others. Diane Yentel of the National Low Income Housing Coalition explained, "Some communities are spending the money quickly and well, proving that it’s possible and making the many communities who aren’t all the more glaring and unacceptable."

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"Seven months after funds were first allocated to them, nine states have spent less than 3% of the money and 16 states have spent less than 5%," she added.

Advocates have also blamed the Treasury Department, in part, for creating overcomplicated rules. Though the Biden administration has made criteria for using the funds more clear, critics say the process still seems to be designed more for preventing fraud than actually helping Americans in need.

The Treasury Department on Wednesday introduced its newest batch of guidelines to accelerate the delivery of funds, but some states still have verification procedures that take weeks to process.

Progressives call for swifter action

Missouri Rep. Cori Bush breaks into tears after the White House extended the eviction moratorium earlier in August.
Missouri Rep. Cori Bush breaks into tears after the White House extended the eviction moratorium earlier in August.  © IMAGO / NurPhoto

After the news of the low distribution rates was released, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley said, "We fought hard to pass this relief and extend the eviction moratorium so that families can remain safely housed."

"It's time for states and localities to do their part and get this critical emergency rental assistance out the door and into the hands of renters and small landlords," the congresswoman continued.

With the Supreme Court mulling a challenge to the federal evictions moratorium, many worry people will start getting evicted from their homes before the assistance arrives.

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Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, who has suffered from eviction and homelessness herself, tweeted, "11 million people will face eviction if the Supreme Court blocks the eviction moratorium extension. It’s a simple choice: Uphold the moratorium or put the lives and livelihoods of millions at risk. The American people are counting on SCOTUS to make the right decision."

The current moratorium was extended in August for another two months after several progressives, led by Cori Bush, camped out on the steps of the Capitol in order to draw attention to the issue.

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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