The recession caused by the pandemic is easing some, as employment increases overall. But the pandemic economy remains weird, with an unexpected increase in new jobless claims this week, even as continuing unemployment claims are going down. And the US is facing a potential crisis at the end of July, when the CDC's emergency moratorium on evictions expires.

But wait, you are probably thinking, didn't Joe Biden and Congress include a great big pile of money to help pay people's rent and utilities, which will help both renters and landlords? Congratulations, imaginary reader, you think very accurate thoughts! Congress appropriated $25 billion in rent relief funds in December, and another $21.6 billion as part of Biden's American Rescue Plan. The problem, as the Washington Post reports, is that there was no mechanism in place to get the funds to renters and landlords, so there's a bottleneck in getting the aid out in time to head off evictions:

All told, Congress has appropriated roughly $46 billion for emergency rental aid. Of the $25 billion appropriated in December, only $1.5 billion had been spent on rent, utilities and arrears between January and the end of May, according to figures released Friday by the Treasury Department. Treasury does not yet have data on how much of the other $21 billion has been spent, according to an agency official.

Big surprise: It's all a matter of which states were Goofus, and which states were Gallant. And for a surprise, that didn't always break down by easy red-blue divisions, either. The Post notes that Rhode Island only started getting money out to people in May, and that only helped six households, while

programs in Virginia and Texas picked up momentum early. Between January and May, those states paid out $155.5 million and $139.8 million, respectively, in rent, utilities and arrears, according to the Treasury data.

Last week, the White House and the Treasury Department announced measures aimed at getting the aid out to people more quickly, but there's still a backlog, and it's pretty goddamn scary times for renters across the country. There are no plans for the CDC to extend its eviction moratorium, but with the delta variant of the coronavirus pushing hospitalizations back up in states with low vaccination rates, we'd like to suggest it would be a good idea. (Running the country from a blog is easy and fun!)

Fortunately, one of the states that has its eviction prevention shit mostly together is California, where last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an extension of the state's eviction moratorium through September (it had been set to expire at the end of June).

Newsom also injected additional funding into California's rent relief program, which is the most comprehensive in the nation. Low-income Californians can apply to have 100 percent of their back rent paid, all the way back to April 2020, as well as overdue water and electric bills.

Separately from the rental assistance program, renters who want to qualify for the moratorium have to show that they've experienced economic hardship due to the pandemic, and they'll have to agree to pay 25% of their total rent by October 1 — which they should be able to do in full with the rental assistance. Also, before they can evict anyone, rental owners have to show that they have applied for assistance from the state as well, and that they've waited at least 20 days before filing an eviction notice.

The top priority for the rent assistance program is getting aid to people in the most financial need, and whenever possible, the goal is to prioritize applications from people in immediate danger of losing their housing.

For more information on how all that works, the Sacramento Bee has an excellent list of resources, and the state encourages landlords and tenants to work together on getting the assistance applications in. Imagine that!

With some $5 billion in federal help from the two stimulus packages, plus its own budget surplus, California is doing everything it can to keep people from becoming homeless, because that's far more efficient than trying to get them back into housing once they lose a roof over their heads. Plus, it's more humane, if you're into the crazy idea that government should actually work to improve people's lives.

[WaPo / Sacramento Bee]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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