The U.S. Department of the Treasury has released demographic data disaggregated by state that indicate emergency rental assistance (ERA) programs assisted a high share of Black households in each state in 2021 but underserved Asian and Latino households. Of households assisted by ERA1 (that is, emergency rental assistance enacted through the “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021”), 49% were Black, 39% were white, 2% were Asian, 2% were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 2% were American Indian or Alaska Native. One out of five ERA1 recipients also identified as Latino. The new data provide a high-level overview but do not illuminate how individual programs have distributed assistance. More granular data are needed to identify racial and ethnic disparities at local levels.
State-by-state demographic data provide a complex picture of how ERA1 has been distributed. In the U.S. overall, 49% of ERA1 recipients were Black households, though Black households make up 24% of cost-burdened low-income renters and 29% of renters behind on rent. In most states, state and local ERA1 programs have similarly assisted a higher share of Black households relative to potential need: in Arizona and Georgia, 31% and 83% of households served were Black, respectively, though Black households make up 9% and 52% of households of cost-burdened, low-income renters and 18% and 58% of renters behind on rent. In Arizona and Georgia, local and state programs cumulatively made approximately 75,000 and 38,000 payments, respectively, but local programs contributed a majority of payments, accounting for 61% and 62% of all payments. Performance among local programs, which serve more urban areas and diverse populations, may bias the aggregated distribution of assistance and explain, for example, the high shares of Black households served in the state overall.
In the U.S. overall, programs have served low shares of Asian households (2% of ERA1 recipients), though these households make up higher shares of cost-burdened, low-income renters (5%). California and Hawaii demonstrate a similar pattern of underserving Asian households: 9% and 24% of ERA1 recipients were Asian, though Asian households make up 20% and 33% of renters behind on rent. Nearly half of the states have served lower shares of Latino households relative to potential need: in Florida and Nevada, 18% and 16% of households served were Latino, respectively, even though Latino households make up 33% and 29% of cost-burdened, low-income renters and 31% and 34% of renters behind on rent.
The ERA program should address racial and ethnic disparities, especially those exacerbated by the pandemic. People of color are more likely to be renters, to be cost-burdened and low-income, and to have faced job loss or struggled with rent during the pandemic. For example, though Black households account for only 12% of all households, they account for 20% of all renter households, 24% of cost-burdened low-income renters, and 29% of renters behind on rent. Latino households face similar disparities: Latino households make up 13% of all households but account for 19% of renters, 22% of cost-burdened low-income renters, and 25% of renters behind on rent. Due to the limited nature of assistance, programs have implemented different tools to conduct targeted outreach and prioritize households in need. The disparity in Asian and Latino households served suggests that ERA programs need to conduct additional outreach and provide more support to these households during the application process to close the gap.
The Treasury data has some limitations. State and local programs in some states have failed to collect and report adequate demographic data – for example, Indiana and Ohio lacked racial and ethnic data for 46% and 55% of their recipients, respectively, and at least ten states did not report disaggregated data for at least one quarter. Data aggregated at the state or national level may mask important disparities at more local levels. In the U.S. overall, Latino households make up 20% of ERA1 recipients, compared to 22% of cost-burdened, low-income renters and 25% of renters behind on rent. The relatively small disparity at the national level masks the fact that some states are significantly underserving Latino households, while other states are serving higher shares of Latino households relative to potential need. More granular data would shed light on racial and ethnic disparities at the local level and help advocates hold programs accountable in improving the distribution of assistance.