States and local agencies struggle to disburse critical rental assistance to eligible Americans
Even with a new CDC eviction moratorium in place through October 3, 2021, millions of renters are still at risk. To help quantify the potential impact of the end of the initial moratorium - which expired on July 31 - Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) data estimated roughly 11.5 million Americans are past due on their rental housing payments. To help renters in need because of the pandemic, Congress has provided more than $46 billion in federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funding, but states have been slow to distribute relief funds to eligible renters. In fact, through June only $3 billion of $46 billion had been paid out by states, counties, cities, and their ERA grantees.
There are a number of reasons that help explain why money isn’t getting into the hands of Americans in need, including:
- The funding was allocated on the federal level but left up to state and local agencies to set up their own programs for disbursement.
- ERA grantees providing funding to renters and landlords have had to add staff, develop systems, and web portals as well as policies and procedures to implement the programs.
- The ERA funding has more stringent eligibility criteria than other financial relief, which requires income documentation and validation that takes time and effort for applicants to compile and agencies to review.
The Treasury Department has indicated that the income verification process is often the most time-consuming step in the eligibility process, as it can require substantial manual work for both the applicant and state housing agencies. It’s also one of the easier processes to automate and streamline, simply by adopting a digital, automated service like The Work Number® database. In 2020, Equifax fulfilled more than 30 million verifications in support of government assistance programs in the U.S.
By leveraging automated, real-time income and employment verifications, social service agencies at all levels of government can better serve their customers and deliver benefits in a more timely, efficient manner – including public housing and rental assistance. In fact, credentialled Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) that tap into The Work Number service have reported improvements in their ability to serve applicants faster and minimize backlogs, because the database delivers automated access to employment and income data updated every pay period.
For example, in a recent webinar Equifax co-presented with the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), one Florida Human Services official explained how her organization leverages data from Equifax: “The Work Number, we have found, is the best solution for us to get real-time information, especially during COVID. Having a solution like The Work Number has really allowed us to continue to move forward with ensuring that we are servicing income-qualifying clients the right way with the most recent information.”
With more than 119 million active records, state and local agencies can quickly tap into The Work Number to incorporate a more efficient way to get critical ERA funding to income-eligible tenants and landlords. For more information on social service verifications from Equifax, click here.