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November saw highest disbursement of rental aid

AP – States and localities in November paid out the largest amount of rental assistance to cash-strapped tenants since a federal programme began, the Treasury Department said in a statement on Friday.

The USD2.9 billion paid out is the latest sign that the programme’s early hiccups have been mostly been resolved and it is now turning to helping those places running short of cash.

The latest figures show USD17.39 billion has been allocated to help cover back rent, putting the programme on pace to pay out or allocate USD30 billion by the end of 2021. So far, there have been more than 3.1 million payments.

“We are just seeing that people got their programmes started, made them simpler and more efficient,” Gene Sperling, who is charged with overseeing implementation of United States (US) President Joe Biden’s USD1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, said in an email interview.

“A lot of places are moving fast and you are getting large amount of funds out quicker to renters in need.”

Gene Sperling speaking during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington. PHOTO: AP

Chief Executive Officer of the National Low Income Housing Coalition Diane Yentel welcomed the increased pace of disbursement.

“Efforts by the Biden administration, advocates, programme administrators and others have significantly improved emergency rental assistance (ERA) programmes and quickened the pace of ERA distribution, keeping millions of people stably housed,” she said in a statement.

“Nearly 10 million people in over three million households have been assisted with these vital resources. With back rent paid, these families have a clean slate and some housing stability to start the year.”

But with the improved results of the USD46.5 billion programme have come with concerns it won’t reach all tenants who need help. The first tranche of emergency rental assistance funds, known as ERA1, is USD25 billion and the second, known as ERA2 and meant to be spent over a longer period of time, is USD21.5 billion.

More than 100 grantees, including large programmes in states like New York and Texas, have indicated they have gone through almost all their ERA1 money, Treasury said.

The problem, Sterling said, is there is not much to reallocate, given how states and cities have gotten so much money out. He estimated that over USD1.1 billion would be allocated in the first three rounds of reimbursement, USD875 million of which will be shifted from within states mostly from state-run programmes to cites and counties in need.

A dozen states are shifting money to localities. Georgia, for example, is shifting USD50 million to Fulton and DeKalb counties. In Arizona, USD39 million is being shifted from the state to Maricopa County.

“This is a team effort, and we will continue to work with all cities and counties operating their own programmes so there are no gaps in services for Arizona families,” spokesperson for Arizona’s Department of Economic Security Tasya Peterson said.