Feb 6, 2023 - News

Scoop: Iowa forfeits millions in federal emergency housing funds

An illustration of a band-aid made of money covering the U.S.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Polk County is getting nearly $28 million more in federal pandemic emergency rent assistance forfeited by the state, federal documents show.

  • Another almost $17 million of Iowa's money was redistributed in late January to other states.

Why it matters: More than 20,000 Iowans are not caught up on rent, according to the Census Bureau's recent housing pulse survey.

  • Of those, more than 9K say it's somewhat or very likely they'll be evicted in the next two months.

Catch up fast: The state has been allocated around a total of $344 million through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program that began under President Trump.

  • The money was intended for renters in almost all of Iowa, excluding Polk County, which received separate allocations.

What's happening: Iowa's had trouble spending large portions of its share because of bureaucracy issues, Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) director Debi Durham said in 2021.

  • The state reallocated $65 million to Polk County last year and has failed to meet recent spending deadlines that continue through much of 2025.

State of play: Iowa has forfeited about $89.5 million so far. Of that, just over $44.7 million has been distributed to other governments.

  • Polk and Linn Counties will apply for the state's remaining forfeited amounts, Eric Kool, director of Polk County Community, Family and Youth Services, tells Axios.

The big picture:Every other state has spent a greater percentage of its ERA allocations than Iowa, according to National Low Income Housing Coalition projections.

  • At least 39 states have spent 75% or more of their first allocations allocated in early 2021.
  • Iowa has spent less than 44% — or just under $50.1 million — of its first allocation.

Separately, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced in 2021 that she returned $95 million in federal money for COVID-19 testing in schools because the state didn't need it.

What's next: Polk County will use the money for more emergency rent assistance and development of affordable housing.

  • Applications will be accepted in coming months, Kool says.

Of note: IFA did not respond to our request for comment.


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