State, local officials distributed just 6.5 percent of rental aid in first half of year

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State and local officials disbursed $1.5 billion in federal rental assistance in June, the Treasury Department reported Wednesday morning, bringing the total rental aid distributed over the first six months of the year to a little over $3 billion — about 6.5 percent of the total aid Congress has allocated.

While officials have picked up the pace of disbursal — serving 290,000 households in June, up from 160,00 the previous month — they remain woefully behind demand, with a little over 633,000 households served by a program meant to help millions.

About 7.4 million tenant households reported being behind on rent in June, according to the latest survey data from the Census Bureau, with 3.6 million households saying they were “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to face eviction in the next two months.

The bottleneck in getting aid to tenants and landlords has become an urgent issue, with just 10 days left before expiration of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide moratorium on eviction for nonpayment of rent.

President Joe Biden in June extended the eviction ban for a month, to July 31, amid lingering concerns about how much of the aid had reached landlords, but the administration has signaled that extension would be the final one. The White House is holding its second “eviction prevention summit” of the month on Wednesday.

Republicans slammed the Biden administration for the slow pace of aid distribution during a House Financial Services Committee hearing Tuesday. North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry, the panel's top Republican, accused the administration of "absolute, complete mismanagement” after Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, who is not in charge of the program, said she had “no idea” how much money has gotten to tenants.

Congress passed two tranches of rental relief, in December and March, allocating $46.5 billion to help keep tenants who’d been financially battered by the Covid-19 crisis in their homes.

Treasury distributed the funds to state and local programs — many of which had to be created on the fly — to pass on to residents in need. Any jurisdiction that has failed to release at least 65 percent of the money by Sept. 30 could see Treasury reallocate their aid to places doing a better job of getting the money out the door.

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