By David Lawder
WASHINGTON – More than $25 billion from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance program has been spent or obligated over the past year through January 2022, Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said on Tuesday.
In prepared remarks at a housing agency in Memphis, Tennessee, Adeyemo said that he expects the “vast majority” of the remaining funds in the $46.6 billion COVID-19 relief program to be deployed to households or paid to local grantee agencies by the middle of 2022.
The program was funded by two COVID-19 relief acts passed by Congress – a $900 billion aid package in December 2020 under former president Donald Trump and the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed into law a year ago this week by U.S. President Joe Biden, marking his first major policy victory.
In January, the Treasury said that about $1.95 billion was spent on rent, utilities and arrears to 431,717 households. That represents a slight decline from December 2021, when 559,280 households received $2.44 billion in assistance.
The program’s monthly payouts peaked in the fall of 2021 and have tapered off since then as U.S. employment has recovered.
In Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee, Adeyemo said that the program has made some 16,000 payments totaling $43.1 million to keep families in their rented homes. The city and county partnered with local courts and non-profit groups to divert eviction cases to the rental assistance program.
Adeyemo said the Treasury also was encouraging state and local governments to use their share of another federal funding source – the $350 billion State and Local Fiscal Relief Fund – to invest in building more affordable housing. New guidance from the Treasury issued in January clarified affordable housing projects as a qualified use for those funds.
Adeyemo said increased supply of affordable housing can offset recent increases in rent and other prices in the economy.
“The American Rescue Plan provided a historic sum of money to state local governments that we’re hoping that they will use to help address the challenges of affordable housing because they’re core to solving and addressing challenges we face in communities all over the country,” he said.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Mark Potter)