Many people lost their jobs or experienced financial hardships during the pandemic. Not surprisingly, millions of tenants have fallen behind on their rent.
Now that the federal eviction ban has been lifted (lawmakers tried to extend it but the Supreme Court overturned it), renters who are behind on their housing payments are in a precarious position. The good news is that there’s a giant pool of rent relief funds available to help tenants get caught up and avoid getting evicted on the basis of the nonpayment of rent. The bad news, though, is that states have been extremely slow to get that money out.
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The two most recently signed stimulus bills allocated funds toward rental assistance. In total, there’s $45 billion in aid.
Although, the problem is that states were allocated that money to distribute individually. And the rollout has been anything but smooth.
In some states, a cumbersome application process and technical difficulties have made applying for rent relief a challenge. And even those who have managed to apply are still being forced to wait on their money.
In fact, as of the end of August, only about $5 billion of rent relief funds had been distributed to the public, despite the fact that the money was approved months earlier. All told, less than 1 million households across the country have received rental assistance.
That lack of progress may come to a head now that the $300 weekly boost that jobless workers were getting in their unemployment benefits has come to an end. Between being behind on rent and collecting lower benefits, the number of people who risk eviction could increase in the coming weeks if states don’t manage to get their acts together.
The good news is that some states are putting added protections in place for renters who risk losing their homes. For example, New York recently extended its own eviction ban until 2022. Still, a recent analysis by the Urban Institute found that more than 2 million people could be at immediate risk of eviction in the absence of states picking up the pace.
To be clear, slowness on the part of states is hurting landlords, too. Many landlords need those funds to cover their own mortgages and housing expenses. So the fact that many states are dragging their feet is a disservice to millions of Americans on both sides of the housing equation.
In some states, simply applying for rental assistance is enough to stave off eviction for the time being. Nonetheless, states need to get that money distributed quicker.
Meanwhile, those who haven’t applied for rent relief yet should look into doing so immediately. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development maintains a list of rental assistance programs by state. From there, however, the process of applying for aid varies from state to state, so renters may need to contact their local state housing agencies for guidance.