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Treasury Dept Says More Than 80% of COVID Assistance Funds Went to Low-Income Families

Treasury Dept Says More Than 80% of COVID Assistance Funds Went to Low-Income Families

More than 80% of the billions of dollars in federal rental assistance aimed at keeping families in their homes during the pandemic went to low-income tenants, according to new statistics released by the Treasury Department this week.

Lawmakers approved $46.5 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance last year, and after early challenges getting the funds out, the pace of distribution has picked up significantly in recent months. Throughout 2021, over $25 billion has been spent and obligated, which represents 3.8 million payments to households, Treasury said on Thursday.

 

The Treasury Department also concluded that the largest percentage of tenants receiving pandemic aid were residents of color, followed by female-led households. In the fourth quarter of 2021, Treasury found that more than 40% of tenants getting help lived in Black communities, and two-thirds of recipients were female-headed households. The data was consistent with what Treasury saw throughout the year.

According to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, those most likely to face eviction are low-income women, especially women of color. Domestic violence victims and families with children are also at high risk for eviction. The agency’s findings on beneficiaries showed their efforts to reach low-income communities the past year had paid off. Among other things, Treasury recommended states and localities make applications multi-lingual and introduced flexible guidelines that allow tenants to self-attest for their income. It also targeted harder-to-reach communities and worked to promote the rental assistance program in Black and Spanish media.

Treasury cited the state of Oregon as an example for others to follow. Lawmakers there went beyond Treasury guidance in how funds would be prioritized, such as whether a household is located in an area with a high percentage of low-income, at-risk renters who might be experiencing housing instability or homelessness. Applications are available in five languages and priority is given to those most in need, not those who are first to apply.

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