MILLIONS OF RENTERS may be at risk of eviction, yet billions of federal dollars for rental assistance have been slow to reach people in need, according to recent news reports. Through July, states and municipalities had only distributed 11% of Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds, the Associated Press reported. While the pace is accelerating, much of the $46.5 billion provided by Congress has not reached those eligible一households with income of 50%-80% of area median income一for emergency assistance.
Reasons for the delay vary for why ERA funds may not be getting into the hands of Americans in need. They include:
Funding was allocated at 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.
Though there have been some program changes recently to create a smoother path for the disbursement programs, the ERA funding requires different 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.
Automate to accelerate
“The U.S. 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 housing agencies,” said Juan Cole, vice president of strategy and solutions consulting for Equifax Government Services. “It’s also one of the easier processes to automate and streamline, simply by adopting digital, automated verification services 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一including public housing and rental assistance, and programs like the Homeowner Assistance Fund.
Acknowledging the complexity of the need, the ERA specifically allows for up to 15% of the funding to be used by grantees for administrative expenses, which can include third-party data for determinations as well as other technology and staffing requirements. In fact, Public Housing Authorities that use The Work Number service have reported improvements in their ability to serve applicants faster and minimize backlogs since the database delivers automated access to employment and income data updated every pay period.
Servicing clients the right way
The unique data and cloud-native technology maintained by Equifax is designed to turn insights into action, helping to recognize and respond to trends in the marketplace. A powerful combination of real-time data insights and differentiated data assets at scale enables Equifax to help agencies and organizations mobilize more quickly to meet critical customer needs.
In a recent webinar, Equifax co-presented with the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), Danicka Ransom, Assistant Director at Osecola County (Fla.) Human Services, 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.”
For more information on social service verifications from Equifax, click here.