The Treasury noted that more needs to be done at the local and state levels to move the payment process along. The program is federally funded, but it's up to states to handle systems to manage the payments. File Photo by PublicCo
Aug. 25 (UPI) -- A federal program funded with almost $50 billion to help struggling Americans pay their rent in the face of COVID-19 hardships is still only slowly paying out money, government data showed Wednesday -- reflecting a national housing crisis that's affecting millions of landlords and tenants.
According to data released by the Treasury Department, just $1.7 billion was disbursed to 340,000 U.S. homes over the month of July, a slight increase over June.
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program was created last year to help Americans affected fiscally by the pandemic stay in their homes. The program has existed with the aid of a national eviction ban that's now being evaluated by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The aid program was funded with $46.5 billion, but Wednesday's data show that only about $5 billion has gone out to struggling Americans so far.
The Treasury noted that more needs to be done at the local and state levels to move the process along. The program is federally funded, but it's up to states to handle systems to manage the payments.
"Many grantees need to do more to urgently accelerate efforts to prevent harmful evictions of vulnerable families," the department said in a statement.
The department warned that if things don't improve after next month, monies in the fund will go elsewhere.
"After September, programs that are unwilling or unable to deliver assistance quickly will be at risk of having their rental assistance funding reallocated to effective programs in other high-need areas."
Officials said there will be new policies and measures intended to reduce delays and simplify applications.
The national eviction moratorium, issued last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been the target of numerous legal challenges spearheaded by frustrated landlords. Some federal courts have ruled against the moratorium, but none have applied the rulings to all landlords and renters nationwide.
The moratorium expired at the end of July, but the CDC issued a narrower, more targeted eviction ban earlier this month that lasts until October. That order, which was upheld by a federal appellate court last week, has been appealed to the Supreme Court.
Landlords in Alabama and Georgia are leading the effort to get the moratorium removed.
Previously, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in June to keep the previous moratorium in place. Justice Brett Kavanaugh said at the time, however, indicated that he might not vote to support it a second time.