The Department of Treasury recently released Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) spending data, revealing that only $1.5 billion of the $25 billion allocated in the December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act (ERA1) had been paid out through May 31. The news comes as the CDC eviction moratorium is set to expire on July 31 and demonstrates the need to significantly accelerate ERA spending to reach low-income renters. Analysis of the Treasury data shows that only a small portion of applicants have been served and that states have been particularly slow to dispense funds, but that distribution may be accelerating in some places.
The Treasury data show that between January and March 2021, 627,767 applications were submitted to ERA programs, but only 14% of those households were served during the same period. States, whose allocations account for approximately $18 billion of the $25 billion, showed particularly slow progress, spending 4% of available funds as of May 31. Localities fared slightly better, spending 13% of their allocations by the end of May, but many localities had yet to start spending down funds. By the end of May, 22 states and 104 cities and counties had spent 1% of their funds or less.
Despite the unacceptably slow spending, some positive trends emerge from the data. During the first quarter (January-March), 71% of assistance went to the lowest-income renters with incomes at or below 30% of area median incomes. The overall rate of spending appears to be increasing. Together, the programs spent 1% of the $25 billion between January and March, 2% of that total in April, and 3% of the total in May. While these increases are not large enough to disperse funds before the moratorium expires, the trend indicates that program spending may further increase as programs ramp up infrastructure and staffing and make modifications to increase program efficiency.
Real-time dashboards indicate that since May 31, some programs are quickly ramping up spending. Texas, for example, had distributed only 11% of its funds by the end of May, but nearly 45% as of early July according to the state’s dashboard. Illinois, whose program did not open until mid-May, distributed 0% of its funds by the end of May, but has now distributed approximately 21%, according to the Illinois dashboard.
Within the Treasury data, several states and localities stand out as particularly high performers. Virginia had paid out 30% of its allocation by the end of May, 17 percentage points higher than the next highest state spenders. High local spenders include Louisville/Jefferson County, Milwaukee County, and Mecklenburg County, which paid out 90%, 79%, and 71%, respectively. While the highest local spenders are further ahead than the highest state spenders, states received significantly higher funding amounts than most localities. Further, local spending progress may be misleading if localities are distributing both state and direct allocations and only reporting the progress of direct allocations.
This publicly available data is essential to enhance transparency and accountability of state and local ERA1 programs. The data illustrate how critical it is that low-spending grantees adopt best practices quickly before the CDC eviction moratorium ends, as detailed in NLIHC’s research and case studies and outlined by the Department of Treasury.
An interim report of ERA1 program progress can be found at: https://bit.ly/36li00n
ERA1 data can be found at: https://bit.ly/3jUz7yb