One of many extraordinary steps the federal government took to combat the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to approving billions of dollars in direct cash payments to Americans, was a temporary ban on the eviction of renters. Additionally, more than one emergency coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress included billions in stimulus rental assistance. Unfortunately, though, there’s evidence that enough Americans still don’t seem to be aware of that fact.
For example, both the stimulus bill that President Biden signed in March and the one President Trump signed in December set aside a total of $46.6 billion in emergency rental assistance stimulus aid. However, a mere $1.5 billion of that was reportedly paid out in June. The stimulus checks certainly have sky-high awareness among members of the public. But let’s take a closer look at this effort which too few people still seem to know about.
Stimulus rental assistance
First, we should note that the national ban on evictions is set to end on July 31. Meaning, they can resume as normal after that.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition maintains a list of a few hundred rental assistance programs around the country that can help get a chunk of the federal rental assistance stimulus money to people who need it. Generally, you have to be a renter who’s having a hard time paying your rent and/or your utility bills because of the pandemic. Perhaps, for example, the pandemic caused you to lose your job.
The way this funding is supposed to work is that it’s distributed to people in need by over 400 local and state agencies. The problem, however, is that while the problem may be uniform, the response isn’t. For example, all of those agencies in charge of parceling out the stimulus rental assistance have different technology. Many of them also have different staffing levels.
And it’s not clear who ought to be doing a better job of alerting renters to the aid that’s available. Although, what is clear is that someone needs to do so. Because it’s not happening really at all at the moment. Per the Census Bureau, around 7 million households were behind on their rent as of late May. But between April and June, only 550,000 people had received any of this stimulus rental aid.
“There is still much further work to do to ensure tenants and landlords take advantage of the historic funding available to help cover rent, utilities, and other housing costs and keep people in their homes,” the US Treasury department said in a recent news release.
Here are some examples of the kind of stimulus rental assistance that’s available. Be aware that things are pretty different from one state to the next. And your local or state housing agency should be consulted for benefits that apply in your area. In Illinois, the state’s Housing Development Authority is overseeing the administration of $1.5 billion in rental assistance. There, tenants and landlords can apply for grants of up to $25,000 to cover as many as 15 months of rent payments between June of last year through August of this year.
Texas, meanwhile, has been offering help with unpaid rent and utilities going as far back as March 13, 2020. Use the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s website to start a search for the housing authority nearest you. That’s where you’ll apply for this funding.