A federal moratorium on evictions expired July 30, leaving millions of Americans facing long-term damage to their credit and the potential loss of their homes if they can’t scrape together more than a year’s worth of back rent, but state and local governments have thus far failed to distribute more than 90 percent of rental assistance money that Congress allocated to keep those tenants from going over a financial cliff.
In New Jersey, state officials said that fewer than one in ten out of 109,000 applicants were so far provided funds from the program, which is financed with $580 million in federal stimulus money allocated for rental assistance.
While employment is rising and strains on household budgets have eased in recent months for some families, the employment rate remains low and millions still report that their households did not get enough to eat or are not caught up on rent payments.
The House of Representatives adjourned for the month without extending the federal eviction moratorium, a move that incensed Rep. Cori Bush, the Missouri congresswoman who once lived out of her car with her two children. After repeatedly asking her Democratic colleagues to vote on an extension, Bush vowed to sleep outside the Capitol building.
“I cannot in good conscience leave Washington tonight while a Democratic-controlled government allows millions of people to go unhoused as the Delta variant is ravaging our communities. Millions of people are about to lose their homes and, as Democrats, we must not give up on the chance to save their lives,” Bush said in a letter to her colleagues.
“State and local governments must do more to accelerate aid to struggling renters and expand programs to meet the scale of assistance needed,” Treasury said this month while promising to take further steps to speed delivery, remove barriers, and reach families most in need. “While some state and local programs are increasingly reaching households in need, others lag far behind, and many programs have just launched in recent weeks.”
Congress passed two tranches of rental relief in December and March, allocating $46.5 billion to help keep tenants in their homes during the Covid-19 crisis.
Key hardship indicators show strong improvement since December, Census Bureau data show, aided by job growth and government benefits. Hardship rates fell especially fast after the enactment of the American Rescue Plan on March 11, which included $1,400 payments for most Americans as well as other assistance to struggling households.
Nonetheless, 20 million adults live in households that did not get enough to eat, 11.4 million adult renters are behind on rent, and some of the progress from late March appears to be waning. Some estimates say 40 million Americans live at, or below the national poverty line.
The impacts of the pandemic and the economic fallout have been widespread, but remain particularly prevalent among Black adults, Latino adults, and other people of color.
These disproportionate impacts reflect harsh, long-standing inequities — often stemming from structural racism — in education, employment, housing, and health care that the current crisis has exacerbated. Households with children also continue to face especially high hardship rates.
Considerable evidence suggests that reducing childhood hardship and poverty would yield improvements in education and health, higher productivity and earnings, less incarceration, and other lasting benefits to children and society.
Alongside the latest surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths, another social crisis is set to erupt as the federal moratorium on evictions comes to an end. Millions are threatened with losing their homes, adding to the already dire situation Americans face as the pandemic enters a new deadly stage.