WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has clawed back $377 million in federal emergency housing aid from states and counties, most of them controlled by Republicans, and redirected the cash to states that have been clamoring for more help, including New York, California and New Jersey.
The $46 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program, first enacted by Congress in 2020, succeeded in preventing a wave of evictions stemming from the downturn caused by the pandemic. But Treasury Department officials, increasingly concerned that evictions might rise after the program winds down, have tried to ensure that none of the remaining funding goes unspent while pushing states to find other funding sources to assist poor tenants.
In recent months, White House officials have pressured governors in states with unspent funds to turn over the money to local governments within their states. Now they are going one step further, pulling back cash from states with relatively few tenants — like Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming — or localities that failed to efficiently distribute the aid, including Alabama, Arkansas and several counties in Texas.
The money, in turn, is being diverted to four states that burned through their allotted amounts — with $136 million in additional aid headed to California, $119 million to New York, $47 million to New Jersey and $15 million to Illinois, according to a spreadsheet provided by a senior administration official. North Carolina, Washington and other localities will be receiving smaller amounts.
New York officials were happy with their windfall but said it fell far short of the $1.6 billion in additional aid requested by the state.
“This is better,” said Representative Ritchie Torres, a Democrat whose district includes the South Bronx, which has some of the highest eviction and poverty rates in the country. “But it’s a pitiful drop in the bucket compared to what we need.”
The four states, home to roughly a third of the nation’s low-income renters, have already spent billions in emergency aid paying back rent for tenants at risk of eviction, and they have requested more funding, citing affordable housing shortages and rising rents. In January, their governors — Gavin Newsom of California, Kathy Hochul of New York, Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, all Democrats — called on Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen to shift cash from low-spending states into their accounts, saying that tenants were “facing an immediate need now.”
Treasury officials responded with the reallocation — but made it clear the well was running dry, and states would soon have to …….