The COVID-19 pandemic has been a nightmare for millions of renters. And it’s not over yet.
While the lockdowns that vaporized renters’ incomes during the first year of the pandemic don’t appear likely to return, even amid the delta variant explosion, an estimated 11.4 million U.S. adults are still behind on rent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. And that number is likely to climb as rents surge.
At the same time, billions upon billions of dollars in emergency rental assistance — “renter stimulus checks” available as part of federal COVID relief — still has not been distributed. That money could help renters get caught up, take care of their bills and pay down debt.
If renters really are in a state of emergency, why is the money taking so long to get to the people who need it?
The two most recent COVID stimulus packages passed by Congress set aside a total of $46.6 billion to help renters pay overdue rent and utility costs. While the funds are being provided by Washington, they’re being distributed through hundreds of programs at the state and local levels.
With aid spread across many different housing authorities, each with its own resource and capacity constraints, renters in different places are not receiving the same levels of service or responsiveness.
But a bigger issue may be that the state and local agencies in charge of disbursing the emergency aid are placing what the U.S. Treasury calls “undue documentation burdens” on renters applying for assistance.
Programs “are adding documentation requirements that Treasury does not require,” Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said in a statement this month. He urged state and local agencies to “make full use of the documentation flexibilities provided by Treasury.”
If you or someone you know has tried to apply for emergency rental assistance and became frustrated by a drawn-out or confusing process, it’s a good time to check back with the local housing authority.
The holdups add to the challenges facing renters
The stimulus aid available to renters can be sizable. In Illinois, eligible tenants and landlords can apply for one-time grants of up to $25,000 to pay off a maximum 15 months of rent missed between June 2020 and August 2021.
The program in Texas is covering unpaid rent and utilities going as far back as March 13, 2020, and can pay for up to two months of future rent and utilities. The relief for Texas renters caps out at $4,600 per month.
But as snags hold up rental assistance in many parts of the country, things are looking bleaker for people who rent.
A national eviction moratorium was extended in early August, but the new end date is just weeks away, on Oct. 3. And landlords and other opponents of the ban are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will strike it down early.
Anyone evicted from their properties in the coming months could have much more difficulty finding an affordable place to go, because rents are soaring.
Rents for detached homes in the U.S. were 10.5% higher in June than a year earlier, according to data from CoreLogic. Rents for attached properties, including high-rise and garden apartments, grew by a more modest, but still budget-stretching, 4.6%.
How to make your own rent relief
Here’s the best recommendation if you or someone in your circle owes a substantial amount of back rent: Apply for emergency rental assistance today. There is still a pile of money waiting to be claimed.
In June, six months after an initial rental aid fund of $25 billion was signed by President Donald Trump, only 12% of the money had made it to renters, according to the Treasury. An even smaller percentage of the $21.5 billion signed by Biden in March had been distributed by the end of July.
If you’re still struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic, here are a few other ways to give yourself more financial breathing room.
- Eliminate debt. If your budget is stretched to the limit every month because of multiple high-interest debts, consider rolling them all into a single, lower-interest debt consolidation loan. You’ll pay less in interest and potentially wipe out your debt sooner.
- Find a new job. The hiring boom taking place in the U.S. right now is an excellent opportunity to find a new, higher-paying job. If you’re happy where you’re at, but would like to generate a little more income through freelancing, there are plenty of people out there who will pay for your skills.
- Cut costs when you shop. You can save when you shop online by downloading a free browser extension that will automatically scan thousands of retailers for lower prices — and keep you from overpaying.
- Turn your pennies into profits. Even if you’re strapped for cash, it can be surprisingly easy to squeeze a little extra income out of the white-hot stock market. A popular app lets you invest in a diversified portfolio using just your “spare change” from everyday purchases.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.
27% of MA apartment renters could be facing eviction
President Joe Biden extended the federal ban on evictions through March 2021 with an executive action in one of his first official acts following the inauguration.
The ban on evictions has helped millions of Americans struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic. The moratorium on evictions was set to expire at the end of the month.
By one estimate, 14 million Americans are behind on their rent during the crisis. In addition to extending the eviction ban through March, Biden is also expected to ask Congress to keep the moratorium in place through September 2021.
Advocates say extending the eviction ban is just a first step, and that there also needs to be more enforcement to make sure landlords follow the law.
“The existing moratorium is flawed and some landlords exploit loopholes to evict tenants despite the protections,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in a statement. “No federal agency is enforcing the order’s penalties for unlawful evictions.”
In addition, there are growing calls for the ban to be matched with adequate rental assistance so that an eviction crisis is prevented rather than merely delayed. So far, Congress has allocated $25 billion in rental assistance but, after months of record job losses, rental arrears may be closer to $100 billion.
Based on the chart above MA has 27% of renters could be facing eviction
Source: CNBC News