Federal distribution of rent assistance funds during pandemic ‘inequitable’: study

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A federal pandemic-related rental assistance program has distributed funding inequitably, according to a new report released Wednesday.

A report by the New America think tank found that funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), aimed at preventing evictions, was not being distributed effectively.

Although the funding reached some people in need and prevented some evictions, its effectiveness varied by location.

“In some locations, getting help was a seamless process, with easy-to-use websites and minimal paperwork. In others, the online system was clunky and applicants had to produce multiple documents to prove their eligibility,” the report authors wrote.

The study that the distribution would have been more equitable if Congress had adopted a needs-based approach rather than a population-based strategy.

For example, the program allocated $131 per person in California and $610 per person in Wyoming.

“This funding disparity has resulted in underfunding of states that need it most and overfunding of those that need it least,” New America said in a press release, adding that there was “a inequitable distribution of funds and duplicative effort among government agencies”.

One of the report’s authors says experts should learn from these policy shortcomings when implementing other government-funded programs.

“The lessons learned from ERAP are broadly applicable and serve as an important policy design lesson for new programs funded by Congress,” Hana Schank, the report’s lead author, said in a statement.

The rental assistance report comes as rental prices have soared across the country, according to travel experts, which will continue.

“I don’t think those cities that have seen a rapid rise in rents over the past 24 months will see a reversal of that,” Rob Warnock, senior research associate at Apartment List, told The Hill. “I think things will normalize a bit for sure. I think 2021 was definitely abnormal that way. But the conditions are still met for prices to continue to rise, especially since the vacancy rate remains so low.

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