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Millions Of Tenants Still Waiting On States To Distribute Federal Rent Relief Funds


As Congress nears approval of the next coronavirus relief bill, millions of renters in need have yet to see any money from the previous one.

Many states around the U.S., including New York and California, have yet to finalize the mechanisms by which the $25B in rental assistance passed as part of the $900B December coronavirus relief bill can be distributed, The Wall Street Journal reports. Meanwhile, rent debt continues to grow for tenants across the U.S. to as much as $52B, according to an Urban Institute study published Feb. 24.

States are proceeding with caution in setting up disbursement programs to avoid abuse of the program, which plagued the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program in the spring of 2020. States also pointed to the delay in receiving administrative guidance from the Department of the Treasury, which took until Jan. 19 to arrive, the WSJ reports — over a month after the passage of the bill containing the $25B in assistance.

Even though the $600 payments that arrived as part of the December stimulus package gave a jolt to the economy, it was not enough to offset months of unpaid rent piling up for millions of Americans who have been without work for months as a result of coronavirus-related business shutdowns. 

Rent collections are down in several cities, leaving tenants thousands in debt to their landlords while those landlords are often short on mortgage payments to their lenders. Landlords lost as much as $7.2B in rental revenue in the fourth quarter alone, according to a Mortgage Bankers Association survey.

The $1.9 trillion package proposed by President Joe Biden's administration has passed the House of Representatives, and if it passes the Senate as currently constructed, it will include another $20B in rent relief that could be disbursed under the systems states set up for the first $25B, the WSJ reports.