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US Covid-related emergency rental aid distribution slow

Washington :
┬áThe distribution of the US administration’s emergency rental aid to tenants and landlords struggling economically in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has been at a slow pace, as the Treasury Department’s data show 90 per cent of that money still remains in the pipeline.

As of July 31, only $4.7 billion in that aid program was spent on rent, utilities and missed payments for vulnerable households who were behind on their rent, just 10 per cent of the $46.6 billion Congress has appropriated since December last year, Xinhua news agency reported citing the data released on Wednesday.

The data showed that $1.7 billion had reached state and local governments in July, only a slight acceleration from June’s distribution of $1.5 billion.

While 70 state and local agencies had distributed more than half of their initial allotment of rental assistance by the end of July, “too many grantees have yet to demonstrate sufficient progress in getting assistance to struggling tenants and landlords”, the Treasury said in a blogpost accompanying the release of the data.

It said one of the challenges faced by jurisdictions in getting assistance to renters and landlords is application processing delays.

The administration addressed the issue by announcing new guidelines on Wednesday to streamline application processes and make it easier for needy people to get help, measures whose effectiveness in solving the persistent conundrum remains to be seen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early August renewed a federal eviction moratorium effective through October 3, in the administration’s bid to buy more time for the aid money to be distributed, after the previous moratorium lapsed at the end of July.

The new moratorium was immediately sued by landlord groups, but a federal judge in Washington, D.C., on August 13 allowed the order to remain in place, citing her lack of authority to block it despite mounting controversies surrounding its legality.

The lawsuit then went to a federal appellate court in the nation’s capital, where the three-judge panel declined to lift the moratorium to meet the request by the property managers and real-estate agents from the states of Alabama and Georgia, who on August 20 filed an appeal and put the case to the Supreme Court.

As per the request of Chief Justice John Roberts, the administration issued a response to the lawsuit on Monday, urging the Supreme Court to leave the moratorium in place, saying it is a “lawful and urgently needed response to an unprecedented public emergency”.

The high court’s decision is expected in the coming days.

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