Use It or Lose It: Tenant Aid Effort Nears a Federal Cutoff

From the NY Times: Use It or Lose It: Tenant Aid Effort Nears a Federal Cutoff

Emergency pandemic funding to help renters must be distributed by Dec. 30. But getting the money to those who need it is no small task.

“Almost from the moment the pandemic spread across the United States, advocacy groups have warned that the economic fallout could cause mass displacement of low-income tenants. In response, more than 400 state and local governments have used money from the federal CARES Act to set up funds to cover at least $4.3 billion in rental assistance — money that has helped tenants pay their bills and landlords stay current on their mortgages, according to a database set up by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a policy group.

But now many jurisdictions are reporting trouble spending it, and with barely two weeks left in the year, they are on pace to have more than $300 million left over, according to the coalition’s database. In a pattern that predated the pandemic, the programs have been complicated by bureaucratic hurdles, competing budget demands and a reluctance among landlords to take part.

There was shifting federal guidance on how CARES Act money could be spent. States passed legislation that piled local rules on top of the federal rules. Each layer was ostensibly created to improve programs — preventing fraud, making sure the money went to the neediest tenants — but added numerous hurdles for both tenants and landlords, and in the end cost time.”