How to Speed Up Rental Assistance Distribution

With the eviction moratorium set to expire soon, states and localities must do more to streamline the application process and get federal assistance dollars into the hands of renters facing eviction.

July 22, 2021, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

COVID-19 Eviction Crisis

Steve Heap / Shutterstock

The Urban Institute's Mary K. Cunningham, Kathryn Reynolds, and Christopher Davis assess the rate of distribution for federal rental assistance dollars, providing some recommendations for states and cities to streamline their processes and get rental assistance to those who need it most. "Assuming the Treasury maintains its May 2021 distribution rate (5,153 households per day), it would take 627 days, or about 21 months, to reach all 3.2 million renters who believe they will be evicted." 

"The eviction moratorium expires in 17 days, and although some jurisdictions are ensuring that no one is evicted without first exhausting emergency relief options, most jurisdictions don’t have these stopgaps. Even the ones that do have these stopgaps still need to figure out the logistics of getting relief funds to renters." Additionally, "[m]any state and local jurisdictions didn’t have rental assistance programs before the pandemic, often because there wasn’t robust federal funding to meet the need."

The authors write that despite encouragement from the Treasury to simplify the application process, "most states and localities are not allowing for self-attestation for income, housing instability, and lease or proof of tenancy." They offer three proposed methods for streamlining the process:

  • "Knock on doors to reach out to those eligible."
  • "Allow for self-attestation for all eligibility requirements," as federal programs do.
  • "Provide rental assistance in the courts through eviction diversion programs," which should include "case management and housing navigation services which can also be funded using emergency relief dollars." 

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