November saw the highest disbursement to date of rental assistance from the COVID-19 program

States and towns paid the largest amount of rent assistance to cash-strapped tenants in November since a federal program began, the Treasury Department said in a statement Friday.

The $ 2.9 billion donated is the latest sign that the program’s early problems have mostly been resolved and it is now turning to cash-strapped places.

The latest figures show that $ 17.39 billion has been allocated to help cover rents, allowing the program to pay or allocate $ 30 billion by the end of 2021. So far, it there were over 3.1 million payments.

“We’re just seeing that people have started their programs, made them simpler and more efficient,” said Gene Sperling, who is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue program. President Joe Biden, in an email interview. “A lot of places move quickly and you get a lot of money faster for tenants in need. “

Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, welcomed the acceleration in disbursements.

“The efforts of the Biden administration, advocates, program administrators and others have dramatically improved Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs and increased the pace of ERA distribution, keeping million people in stable housing, ”she said in a statement. “Almost 10 million people in more than 3 million households have benefited from these vital resources. With the rent arrears paid, these families have a clean slate and some housing stability to start the year.

But with the improved results of the $ 46.5 billion program concerns it will not reach all tenants who need help. The first tranche of the emergency rental assistance fund, known as ERA1, is $ 25 billion and the second, known as ERA2 and intended to be spent over a longer period. , is $ 21.5 billion.

More than 100 recipients, including large programs in states like New York and Texas, reported that they spent almost all of their ERA1 money, the Treasury said.

The problem, Sterling said, is that there isn’t much to reallocate, given that states and cities have pulled out so much money. He estimated that more than $ 1.1 billion would be allocated in the first three rounds of repayment, of which $ 875 million will be transferred from within states, mostly from state-run programs to cities and towns. counties in need.

A dozen states transfer money to communities. Georgia, for example, is transferring $ 50 million to Fulton and DeKalb counties. In Arizona, $ 39 million is transferred from the state to Maricopa County.

“This is a team effort, and we will continue to work with all cities and counties that operate their own programs so that there are no gaps in services for families across the country. ‘Arizona,’ said Tasya Peterson, spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Economic Security. “This voluntary reallocation to Arizona population centers will help ensure that resources are available to all eligible households, regardless of jurisdiction.”

Several places will get money from a pool of reallocated funds from poorly performing states. California will receive $ 62 million, New Jersey $ 40.8 million, New York $ 27 million, and the District of Columbia $ 17.8 million.

“There won’t be huge amounts of excess funds,” Sterling said. “The reallocation will help but will not fill the gaps in large states like Texas, New York or California which have largely committed their funds and still have significant needs.”

California welcomed the additional funds, but said they fell short of needs. “While we appreciate the injection of additional federal resources from the US Treasury, California will need significantly more funds from future federal reallocations in order to continue to meet the needs of low-income California tenants affected by COVID-19 “, Business, Lourdes Castro Ramírez, secretary of the Agency for Consumer Services and Housing, said in a statement.

The New York $ 27 million may only fund 2,177 applications, New York State Office of Disability and Temporary Assistance Executive Deputy Commissioner Barbara Guinn said in a filing before state court on Monday. Guinn’s filing in a lawsuit launched by attorneys came days before a state judge ordered New York to reopen its application portal, closed in November.

Tenant advocacy groups say New York should once again accept the applications, which temporarily offer eviction protections to applicants. But lawyers representing New York have argued that the state should keep the application portal closed to avoid giving future applicants “false hope” due to the lack of available rent assistance funds.

Guinn said it was “not at all clear” whether New York would get more federal funds in March.

The initial roll-out of the federal program was hampered by slow disbursements, with administration officials publicly accusing state and municipal partners of hampering the process with excessive bureaucracy often aimed at preventing fraud.

More recently, the problem was that some parts of the country were spending all their money while others, especially parts of the South, were lagging behind.

Entities that have not committed 65% of their ERA1 money or have an expense ratio of less than 30% as of September 30, based on a Treasury formula, have faced a reallocation of the money. Recipients could avoid losing money if they submit a plan by November 15 showing how they would improve distribution or be able to get their distribution numbers above the 65% or 30% threshold .

The deadline to submit a request for the second round of reallocated funds is January 21. In accordance with the law, the process of reallocation of ERA2 funds will not begin until March 31, 2022.

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