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Many states have given out under 5% of rental assistance

For months, renter Sabrina Floyd waited to hear if she and her family were approved for help from the Clark County rental assistance program in Las Vegas.

She’d often ask her caseworker for updates and would get the same reply: “Thank you for your continued patience during these hard times,” the email said. “We are still processing your application.”

Then on June 9, she learned that she was denied because she hadn’t supplied a necessary document in time. She wondered which document officials were referring to. No one had said her application was missing anything.

“We never took longer than 48 hours to respond to any request,” Floyd, 27, said. “I feel frustrated.”

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And now she worries she and her 3-year-old daughter, Emeri, will be evicted.

Clark County’s rental assistance program did not respond to a request for comment.

Even as the pandemic fades, more than 10 million Americans, or 14% of U.S. renters, are still behind on their rent.

Congress has allocated more than $45 billion in assistance to help clear up these arrears and keep people in their homes, but the rollout of the money has been slow in many states. The first funding package was passed in December and the second in March.

Sabrina Floyd and her daughter, Emeri.

Courtesy of Sabrina Floyd

Housing advocates blame the delays on unnecessarily complex paperwork and arduous and unclear requirements.

“They’re demanding things that many tenants don’t have, like the landlord’s email address, for example,” said Dan Rose, an assistant professor of sociology at Winston-Salem State University and an organizer with Housing Justice Now. “They’ve also done a terrible job communicating with tenants.”

Rose estimates that just about 5% of the rental assistance allocated to Winston-Salem and Forsyth County in North Carolina have gone out to tenants by now.

The slow rollout will have dire consequences for people, he said: “[It’s] going to worsen the eviction crisis in the coming months.” The national ban on evictions expires in two weeks.

Across the country, the assistance is moving slowly.

State and local distribution programs that deviate from congressional intent, enacting haircuts or caps on back-rent, leave rental housing providers to unfairly absorb the debt.

Greg Brown

senior vice president of government affairs at the National Apartment Association

For example, Colorado’s state program has only approved or distributed 1.5% of its funding, according to data provided to CNBC by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Wyoming’s program, meanwhile, has handed out just 0.1% of its assistance.

Brett McPherson, a spokesman for the Colorado state program, said the federal funds “require significant documentation from both the tenant and the…

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