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Millions of Renters Left Waiting as Aid Disbursement Lags

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Financials

Millions of Renters Left Waiting as Aid Disbursement Lags


September 13, 2021
stressed paying bills
Photo: samuel | stock.adobe.com

CNBC says the $45 billion in rent aid has been “bafflingly slow” to reach Americans, leaving more than 6 million households behind on payments. The funds were approved in the December and March stimulus packages, yet as of the end of August, just $5 billion has been spent. That's fewer than 1 million households receiving assistance, says CNBC. In Maryland, nearly 19% of renters are behind on payments, averaging more than $4,500 in rent debt and California’s 15% of renters behind on payments are behind nearly $5,200 on average, according to data from health and data nonprofit Surgo Ventures.

The troubles are even greater in certain counties: Around 1 in 4 renters are behind in the Bronx, New York. A study earlier this year by New York University found that thousands of renters in New York City have debts in excess of $10,000.

“Our rental arrears crisis is one that has a solution: There are funds available to renting families to help them pay their rent,” said Dr. Sema Sgaier, co-founder and CEO of Surgo Ventures and an adjunct assistant professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“But those funds aren’t being handed out quickly enough, and our analysis shows that.”

Advocates blame the troubled rollout of the funds on complicated applications and short-staffing across the hundreds of organizations tasked with giving out the aid.

“Public officials are more concerned about so-called scammers getting this money than they are about the people who truly need it,” said Dan Rose, an assistant professor of sociology at Winston-Salem State University and an organizer with Housing Justice Now.

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