Friday, June 11, 2021

Life is full of tradeoffs, the case of federal renters assistance

Getting this aid to people is slow since it takes time to verify who is in need (to prevent fraud). So you can have more assistance or less fraud. We might not be able to get both. 

There has been fraud with unemployment. See Scott Peterson, thousands of California inmates carried out 'staggering' Covid fraud, officials say by Tim Stelloh of CBS News. 

See also How scammers siphoned $36B in fraudulent unemployment payments from US by Nick Penzenstadler of USA TODAY.

For the rental issue, see Logjams Are Keeping Much of $47 Billion in Federal Aid From Renters: Strict rules for eligibility and overburdened local officials prevent financial assistance from getting to struggling tenants by Will Parker of The WSJ. Excerpts:

"Some local programs report being overwhelmed with applications that they must manually vet and approve. New York state, for example, didn’t open applications for its $2.7 billion program until June 1.

Other local programs are reluctant to loosen too many requirements and run the risk of fraud.

“Being quick and making sure all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed don’t usually work well together,” said Cynthia Lee Sheng, parish president of Jefferson Parish, La., near New Orleans, which is working to distribute $12.8 million to struggling renters. The parish has paid out less than $300,000, Ms. Lee Sheng said, and has hired a third-party group to help manage its 3,300-application backlog."

"Tenants also fail to complete applications. Louisiana, which administers a $161 million aid fund benefiting 57 of the state’s parishes, said this month that just over 3,000 of the 16,500 renters who began the application process have completed it.

A survey of 220 assistance programs last year by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that incomplete applications were the most common barrier to distributing aid. “The programs that required the most documents were more likely to have that problem of incomplete applications,” said Andrew Aurand, vice president for research at the advocacy group."

"Texas, which has distributed about $250 million from its $1.3 billion program, asks applicants whether they are at risk of homelessness due to their rent debts, a criterion of the Treasury Department’s rules for the funds.

Many have been confused and answer no, disqualifying them from aid. But state administrators say that simply having back-rent debt or an eviction notice can demonstrate a risk of homelessness. Administrators are sending text messages to the applicants asking them to reconsider their answer, Mr. Gair said."

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