(Bloomberg) – Millions of Americans are behind on rents, but their opportunities to get some of the billions of dollars in federal aid have been uneven across the country.
One state has both a high proportion of needy residents and a successful relief delivery: Virginia.
The end of the federal eviction moratorium has put households at risk of eviction. While some states and cities extended evictions during the pandemic era, including New York, most did not.
More than 6 million households in the United States have rental debt, and half of those households are families with children, according to a late July and early August analysis of census data by National Equity Atlas.
According to the group, 15% of tenant households across the country have fallen behind. In South Carolina, Georgia, New York, West Virginia, and Mississippi, more than 20% of renters are behind schedule.
“It is a race to provide rental assistance resources to those who need them,” said Sarah Treuhaft, vice president of research at PolicyLink, a partner behind the National Equity Atlas.
Across programs, Congress has allocated $ 46.5 billion in rental grants, but only 11% of that has been paid out by the end of July.
The vast majority of states have distributed 20% or less of their allocated funds, according to the latest US Treasury Department data.
Rent relief becomes critical for low-income tenants as home-related debt goes beyond arrears, said Vincent Reina, associate professor and faculty director of the Housing Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. By this point, many households have likely stretched into credit card and informal debt to pay what they can, his research showed.
The state of Virginia led the nation in providing rental convenience through July after distributing more than 50% of funds received from the federal government.
That’s the result of an existing governance structure and network of local partners to get the dollars out the door, said Kathryn Howell, associate professor and co-director of the RVA Eviction Lab in Virginia.
In recent years, the state has had five of the top 10 major cities in the country with high eviction rates, Howell said. Publicity around the designation spurred government investments, including dedicated eviction workers.
“When the crisis hit, they were ready to take action,” she said. “They talked about it back in March, and they were really ready to act when the federal money collapsed.”
Few governments had programs providing this type of aid prior to this year, according to the Treasury Department.
New York has the largest proportion of tenants in the country, and more than 700,000 households are behind on rent according to the National Equity Atlas. It was possible to provide less than 1.5% of the allocated funds by July.
The state has since accelerated its pace, with payments increasing in size and number, according to Anthony Farmer, a spokesman for the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
By August, it had paid out over $ 300 million and approved applications for more than 70,000 renters, he said as the state sped up.
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