The Biden administration’s effort to head off a crisis when the federal moratorium on evictions expires at the end of the month is gaining modest momentum, with 290,000 tenants receiving $1.5 billion in pandemic relief in June, according to new Treasury Department statistics.
But the flow of the cash, part of a $47 billion infusion of cash for rental assistance included in two pandemic relief packages, remains sluggish and hampered by confusion at the state level, potentially endangering tenants who have fallen behind in their rent over the past year.
“While more households are getting help, in many states and localities, funds are still not flowing fast enough to renters and landlords,” Treasury officials warned in a statement accompanying the release of the spending numbers.
In a related move, the White House on Friday announced a new set of programs intended to help homeowners who were struggling to pay their mortgages, part of an “all-out effort” by the administration to prevent a crisis.
On Wednesday, the White House hosted the latest of several recent virtual conferences on the topic, featuring local officials from Georgia, Colorado and California who discussed how they were implementing anti-eviction programs to cope with the looming loss of the moratorium.
The amount of money sent to tenants in June was greater than the disbursements of the previous two months combined, according to the Treasury Department.
Administration officials predicted that the July outlays are likely to be far greater, as states, in conjunction with local nonprofit partners, build “a new national infrastructure for rental assistance and eviction prevention that did not previously exist,” according to a summary of their efforts.
The gains have been fueled by a ramp-up of programs in several large states, including Illinois. In Chicago, state officials and local tenants’ groups have been working with small landlords and renters in housing court, encouraging both parties to fill out expedited applications for federal aid before their cases reach the point of an eviction order.
In other cities, including Pittsburgh, local groups have been taking a similar approach — while also helping impoverished renters file applications for federal food relief programs and Medicaid as a way of helping them weather the loss of jobs or other economic hardship.
Some states, including New York and California have extended their moratoriums past June 30, to allow time for the infusion of emergency federal housing aid to be disbursed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the federal freeze, which had been scheduled to expire at the end of June, for an additional month. Last month, the Supreme Court took the unusual step of declining to consider a challenge to the moratorium in hopes of buying more time for the funding to make its way to tenants and landlords.
Even with the federal extension, tenants’ rights groups fear that millions of renters might be at risk of eviction this fall. And while Mr. Biden’s domestic policy team believes that number to be lower, they have been frantically pushing to get the rental assistance money out the door as fast as possible.