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Renters And Landlords Feel The Pinch Of Delayed Rental Assistance

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Millions of Americans lost their jobs during the pandemic. And while the economy is slowly rebounding, many people still struggle to pay bills, including their rent.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

To avoid an avalanche of evictions, the CDC issued a new federal moratorium this month, and Congress has distributed more than $46 billion to the states for emergency rental assistance. But a new Treasury Department report shows that only a fraction of that money, 11% of it, has actually been used.

FADEL: The problem is that many renters have a hard time getting those funds.

JESSICA: I've been waiting since, like, I want to say maybe, like, the beginning of this year or last year.

FADEL: Jessica lives in Seattle, Wash. She has three children and made a living selling cakes, but her small business took a hit during the pandemic.

INSKEEP: And without money from the King County Rental Assistance Program, she will not be able to pay the rent.

JESSICA: I'm hoping that it'll come through and I can get some assistance from them because if I don't get any approval or help from them, you know, worse comes to worst, we may be moving to my parents'.

INSKEEP: Like Jessica, Shay Mills (ph), a 38-year-old from Mississippi, underwent an excruciating process to request help with her past-due rent.

SHAY MILLS: Every time I went to court, it kind of felt like I was just going empty-handed.

FADEL: But it's not only the tenants who struggle to access the relief money. Landlords face similar issues. Take Mary Harwell, for example. Her tenant fell behind on rent earlier this year. She submitted papers and other documents to Virginia housing authorities, but nothing happened.

INSKEEP: Until she went public with her story.

MARY HARWELL: It was so long getting an answer that I called the TV station and I talked with them about it. And about two weeks ago, I got a check.

INSKEEP: The check from the Richmond Housing Authority covers her tenants' rent through October 5.

FADEL: What happens after that? Well, Mary doesn't know.

HARWELL: You know, if she don't pay her rent in October, what am I supposed to do? Because I'm not working. I'm retired, and I won't be able to continue to do it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.