Administration Cuts Red Tape for Pandemic Rental Aid

Only 11% of $47B has been distributed since aid program started in December

Sad woman looking out of the window during the COVID-19 pandemic

Juanmonino/Getty Images

The federal government moved Wednesday to cut through a thicket of red tape that’s allowed just 11% of money from a $47 billion emergency financial assistance program launched in December to reach the struggling renters it’s intended to help.

Key Takeaways

  • The government Wednesday moved to eliminate verification paperwork for pandemic rental aid. 
  • Tenants can now simply sign papers under penalty of perjury stating that they’re suffering economic hardship.
  • The move is meant to speed up the glacial speed of aid distribution by state and local governments.

The Treasury Department, the agency responsible for managing the emergency rental assistance, released new guidelines Wednesday clarifying that the hundreds of local programs administering the aid are allowed to disburse it without requiring documentation from tenants proving they are suffering financial hardship, and other eligibility requirements. The move was intended to speed up distribution of the money, of which only 11% had been given out, according to the latest data in a Treasury Department news release. 

Paperwork has been a major barrier to distributing the assistance that’s intended both to prevent renters from being evicted because of difficulties caused by the pandemic’s devastating effect on the economy, and to compensate landlords for rent their tenants haven’t been able to pay. 

The program was created by a pandemic relief bill in December 2020 with a first round of $25 billion in funding, augmented by $21.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan relief bill in March. The first round of funding expires at the end of September 2022, and the second ends in March 2025. But the state and local rental assistance programs that distribute the aid have until Sept. 30 of this year to give out 65% of their funding or risk having their funds reallocated elsewhere.

The documents required by various states and localities, including ID, proof of income, and proof of leasing, were intended to prevent fraud and abuse by both landlords and tenants in the program. The new guidelines let tenants simply sign papers under penalty of perjury saying that they’re suffering financial hardship.

“As the president has made clear, no state or locality should delay distributing resources that have been provided by Congress to meet families’ critical needs and prevent the tragedy of unnecessary eviction,” the White House said in a statement Wednesday.

The urgency to distribute the aid has only intensified since a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on evictions expired July 31, and the new eviction ban replacing it has been challenged by property groups in a legal dispute that’s currently being considered by the Supreme Court.

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  1. Treasury Department. “Treasury Announces Seven Additional Policies to Encourage State and Local Governments to Expedite Emergency Rental Assistance.”

  2. Congressional Research Service. “Emergency Rental Assistance through the Coronavirus Relief Fund.”

  3. The White House. “FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Takes Additional Steps to Prevent Evictions as the Delivery of Emergency Rental Assistance Continues to Increase.”

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