Rent prices are skyrocketing across the country. Still, at least two Republican governors have refused additional federal aid for struggling tenants.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said last Friday that while his state may receive up to $146 million in new federal rent relief, Arkansas will not use more than about $60 million. dollars of those funds for housing stability programs that could include rent relief, according to Arkansas. Democrat-Gazette.
The move appeared to confuse some housing advocates in the state, given that inflation is at a 40-year high and is squeezing the same low-income families who may be less likely to own their homes.
Hutchinson, who joins Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts in leaving money on the table, said the state has $6.7 million left in federal rental assistance in 2021 and “lots of jobs” in the state to bolster tenants’ ability to pay, the Democrat-Gazette reported.
“Federal rent relief funds, distributed directly to state and local governments, have been mired by concerns about landlord resistance, bureaucratic headaches and too-slow relief for tenants.”
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Hutchinson also says his decision had been “misinterpreted as the elimination of all forms of rental assistance,” pointing out that the state had already distributed nearly $100 million in rental assistance during the pandemic.
Others disagree with Hutchinson’s position on rent relief. “This decision is heartless,” said Neil Sealy, a member of Arkansas Renters United, a community organization and executive director of the Arkansas Community Institute, a grassroots group that helps low-income families and working people cope. for social and economic justice. KATV, an ABC affiliate in Little Rock.
The current pool of federal funds is available through the second phase of the Pandemic Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which offered up to $25 billion to renters after a stimulus package passed. $900 billion in December 2020, and up to $21.55 billion under American Rescue. Plan Act last year.
““We must guard against grand government socialism where people are incentivized not to work but instead are encouraged to rely on government handouts long after an emergency is over.””
The money, which is being distributed directly to state and local governments, has been fraught with concerns of landlord resistance, bureaucratic headaches and too-slow relief for tenants.
Some states also failed to use their rent relief funds, and in January the Treasury Department ended up reallocating unspent money from some governments with low disbursement rates to needy states like California and New York, according to Politico.
The fact that available rent assistance went unused was, in part, behind Ricketts’ decision to veto a rent assistance bill that would have required Nebraska to seek $120 million. dollars in federal aid last month, according to WOWT, an NBC affiliate in Omaha.
“We must guard against big government socialism where people are incentivized not to work but instead are encouraged to rely on government handouts long after an emergency is over,” Ricketts said in a published veto letter. by station. “We cannot justify asking for federal assistance when Nebraska has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation and we are no longer in a state of emergency.”
Still, many tenants are suffering from sticker shock as rents rise as the number of new COVID-19 cases declines after more than two years of the pandemic and the country’s economy reopens.
Additionally, some may not be able to afford their housing costs in the coming months. Rent prices in Little Rock, Arkansas, have risen 16% since the pandemic began, according to a March report from Apartment List, while rents in nearby Tennessee towns like Clarksville have soared up 42.4%.