The U.S. Treasury issued new guidance Wednesday in hopes of speeding up the distribution of billions of dollars in rent relief funds that continue to stagnate across the country as eviction moratoriums creep closer to their expiration dates.

The Treasury’s new rules for applicants could make it easier to apply and speed up how fast they’re processed. Tenants can now self-attest to things like household income, risk of homelessness or financial hardship, which previously required documentation.

States and cities can soon start paying portions of bulk payments to landlords and utility providers in anticipation of applications being approved, make additional payments to landlords who take on “hard-to-house” tenants who have been evicted or experienced homelessness in the past year, and also pay arrears for unpaid rent at previous addresses.

The announcement from the Treasury comes the same week that the United States Supreme Court struck down a national eviction moratorium protecting tenants affected by the pandemic from being kicked out of their homes. The ruling puts the responsibility on Congress to pass an extension. Local protections for renters in Los Angeles County expire at the end of September.

The New York Times reported earlier this week that just $5.1 billion of the $46.5 billion that was allocated to states has been distributed to landlords or their tenants who are behind on their rents due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, Long Beach announced it was reopening its program after closing it July 11. The city received an additional $13 million in aid, bringing its total to $64 million. However, the city has only allocated $13.8 million through July 31, according to Treasury data.

Rick De La Torre, a spokesperson for the city’s Development Services department, which is administering the program, said that the city has received over 14,000 applications but had only awarded money to 1,783 landlords or utility providers as of last week.

“It will remain open until all the program funds are exhausted,” De La Torre said of the timeline for the program that the city had previously stopped taking applications for multiple times.

De La Torre said that one of the biggest factors in the slow distribution has been missing documents but that applicants can download attestation forms that can be used in place of traditional documents used to prove income and the amount of past-due rent.

“Right now, what we know is that we’re continuing to encourage all those that are eligible to apply,” De La Torre said. “But just as importantly we want those who have submitted partially completed applications to complete the application process.”

De La Torre said that while the city has only approved a fraction of the $64 million it has to help renters, about $60 million in aid has been requested by renters and landlords.

A report from the Treasury Department tracking agencies’ use of federal funds from the first Emergency Rental Assistance Program allotment showed varying degrees of success across California. Cities like San Jose ($30.4 million), San Diego ($42.3 million) and Los Angeles ($118.3 million) have moved significant funds into the hands of renters.

Others like Oakland ($12.9 million), Anaheim ($10.4 million) and Santa Ana ($9.9 million) have allocated smaller amounts. Part of the Treasury Department’s announcement this week noted that agencies not distributing the funds fast enough could have their funds “recaptured” by the federal government and given to other cities and counties.

A Treasury spokesperson said Friday that the department has not determined a spending threshold that a city would have to meet to hold onto its funding. The department has the authority to begin reclaiming unused funding starting Sept. 30, but the spokesperson said that the department prefers that each jurisdiction use its full amount of funding.

If funding is recaptured from a city or county it would apply only to the first allocation the federal government made in 2020. Long Beach received multiple allocations from the government including $21 million in May, the month the program launched, and $13.1 million earlier this month in addition to the nearly $30 million it received in 2020.

The speed in which Long Beach has helped households has increased over the past few months. While helping just 33 households in May, Long Beach saw that increase to 428 in June and 1,462 in July, the last month that data was available from the Treasury.

Information on how to apply for the city’s rent assistance program and links to forms to download can be found here.

With time running out, Long Beach’s rent-relief funds are trickling out to tenants, landlords

Long Beach gets another $13.1M for rental assistance—but the bulk of funds have gone unclaimed


Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.