Sep 28, 2021 - Real Estate

Millions in Arkansas rental assistance may be left on the table

Illustration of a stack of hundred dollar bills being erased

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nearly $172 million in federal emergency rental assistance sent to Arkansas could be erased — if it's not committed by Thursday.

Driving the news: The first emergency rental assistance program was established in December 2020. The U.S. Treasury Department set a deadline of Sept. 30 for money to be paid.

  • But only 15% of the $201 million in federal emergency rental assistance sent to Arkansas had been paid or committed at the end of last week. That's according to an Axios analysis of state and local data.
  • Zoom out: Nationally, only about $7.5 billion, or 30%, of the $25 billion apportioned in December has been paid.

Why it matters: An estimated 77,000 Arkansas households are behind on rent payments, with statewide rental debt topping approximately $127 million.

  • Families that can't catch up on rent face eviction, which can make it difficult to find new housing.

State of play: Axios reported last month that overwhelmed agencies caused the slow distribution of money. State policy that required landlords to submit paperwork — and a lack of knowledge about the program — were also likely reasons for the slowdown.

Yes, but: Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced early this month plans to streamline the process.

By the numbers: Arkansas received four buckets of emergency rental assistance based on population. Benton, Pulaski and Washington counties received a combined $27.3 million, managed by various local agencies. The state received $173.7 million, managed by the Department of Human Services (DHS).

  • Benton County paid $7.3 million to 1,461 households as of Sept. 24.
  • Pulaski County paid $5.8 million to nearly 1,100 households as of Sept. 24.
  • Washington County paid $3.7 million to more than 700 households as of Sept. 27.
  • DHS paid $13.3 million to 4,157 households as of Sept. 24.

Plus: There's been an uptick in money paid from DHS since Gov. Hutchinson's announcement. The state made changes allowing for tenants to be paid directly, even if a landlord does not submit information, spokesperson Gavin Lesnick told Axios.

  • DHS also added staff and prioritized cases where tenants are at risk of eviction.

What to watch: Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Adewale Adeyemo, published a letter Friday addressing reallocation, essentially saying excess money will be shifted to where the need is greatest.

  • The letter states that an effort will be made to keep reallocated money within the same state.

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