Jan 21, 2022 - News

Polk County lands up to $60M more in rent assistance

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Polk County will receive up to $60 million more in federal emergency rent assistance that had previously been allocated to the state, according to county administrator John Norris' memo to supervisors last week.

Why it matters: Polk County families need the help and federal officials have threatened to reclaim a state grant if the money goes unused.

Catch up quick: Congress approved $25 billion in emergency rent assistance in late 2020.

  • Iowa's share was $195 million. The state government had spent less than 10% of its allocation by last October, prompting a federal warning that some of the money could be subject to a clawback.
  • Meanwhile, Polk County and Des Moines have received a combined $26.5 million, in separate allocations, but the aid was quickly exhausted.

Of note: Iowa's state government was awarded an additional $149 million last year in a second round of federal rent assistance.

  • But that portion doesn't have to be spent until Sept. 30, 2025.

Driving the news: Iowa officials are working with the federal government to allow Polk County to use some of the state's initial allocation.

  • A $30 million reallocation has been approved and a second $30 million ask is pending.
  • Polk has advanced $14 million to IMPACT, the nonprofit both the county and Des Moines hired to manage and disburse the aid. The advance is intended to keep the emergency rental assistance program going until the transfers are completed, per Norris' memo.

By the numbers: Almost 7,200 Polk County households have received rent assistance from the federal funding so far.

  • Nearly 3,400 applications are pending.

Between the lines: The need in Polk County is greater than in many rural counties because of its larger population, IMPACT director Anne Bacon told Axios.

  • The county's program allows the assistance to apply to future rent payments, making distribution and paperwork less cumbersome than the state program, she said.
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