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

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

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

While the funding did reach some people in need and prevent some evictions, its effectiveness varied by location.

“In some localities, getting aid was a smooth process, with easy to use websites and minimal paperwork. In others, the online system was clunky, and applicants were required to produce multiple documents to prove eligibility,” the authors of the report wrote.

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

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

“This funding disparity resulted in states with the most need being underfunded and those with less need being overfunded,” New America said in a press release, adding that there was an “inequitable distribution of funds and duplicate efforts across 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 congressionally-funded programs,” Hana Schank, the report’s lead author, said in a statement.

The report on rent assistance comes as rent prices have spiked nationwide, a trip experts suggest will continue.

“I don’t think these cities that have seen rapid rent increases over the last 24 months are going to see a reversal of that,” Rob Warnock, a senior research associate at Apartment List, previously told The Hill. “I think things will normalize a bit for sure. I think 2021 was definitely abnormal in that way. But the conditions are still ripe for prices to continue to go up, especially as the vacancy rate remains so low.”