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Housing

After Slow Start, U.S. States Spend Billions in Emergency Rent Relief

More than $20 billion in rental assistance has now been disbursed to struggling tenants nationwide. But progress remains uneven, and several states could have unused funds reallocated after March 31.

An apartment building at the Lambert Houses low-income housing complex in the Bronx. New York State overcame a slow start to become one of the leaders among U.S. states in getting emergency rental assistance into the hands of tenants and landlords during the pandemic. 

An apartment building at the Lambert Houses low-income housing complex in the Bronx. New York State overcame a slow start to become one of the leaders among U.S. states in getting emergency rental assistance into the hands of tenants and landlords during the pandemic. 

Photographer: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg

When Covid-19 hit in 2020, the U.S. Congress allocated $46.5 million to help struggling low-income renters stay in their homes during the pandemic. The federal Emergency Rental Assistance program was designed to be a lifeline for those who fell behind on payments as work and income streams were disrupted. But most states were initially slow to disburse the funds — to the frustration of tenants, landlords and housing advocacy groups.

After that sluggish start, there are now signs of significant progress. More than 4.3 million payments worth $20.5 billion were allocated to households nationwide through Jan. 31, the U.S. Treasury reported this month. The aid, while late, likely played a significant role in preventing hundreds of thousands of evictions, according to a new Eviction Lab analysis.