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States Use CARES Act Funds to Keep Renters Afloat

More than a dozen states are using Community Development Block Grant funding from the CARES Act to fund emergency rental and mortgage assistance programs.
September 11, 2020, 7am PDT | LM_Ortiz
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Allen J.M. Smith

At least 15 states and the District of Columbia are using federally funded relief for renters. Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and Washington, D.C., are using Community Development Block Grant funding from Congress’s March CARES Act to fund emergency rental and mortgage assistance programs.

Many of the programs are just getting underway, illustrating the challenge of quickly spinning up the gears of bureaucracy, especially amid a pandemic. But the crisis has forced some agencies to implement creative solutions that cut back on red tape and streamline processes for getting money out the door. The glaring inequitable impacts of COVID-19 have led some states to use new frameworks for disbursing funds. Though the programs are still in their infancy, their challenges and successes are already spurring conversations among advocates, community groups, and housing providers about how to use emergency rent relief after the pandemic.

The programs range widely from state to state. In some places, such as Massachusetts, the federal funds are expanding existing emergency rent relief programs. Many other states are building out entirely new programs. On the low end, Utah is using $3 million in CARES funding to seed its rent relief efforts. On the high end, Illinois and Pennsylvania are pumping $150 million of CARES funding into rent relief, with the latter state spending another $25 million in CARES funding on a separate mortgage relief effort. Even at the high end, officials see the programs as stopgap measures that will fall far short of helping every resident in need.

In Washington, the state legislature dedicated $100 million in CARES funding to create ...

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Published on Monday, August 31, 2020 in Shelterforce Magazine
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