WASHINGTON DC – A new watchdog report shows the federal government is missing more than a quarter of rental assistance payments made in 2021.
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The Treasury Department is responsible for managing more than $46 billion in the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program, which was put in place to help low-income families hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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A report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) points to oversight concerns, as findings show the Treasury Department is missing data on 26 percent of payments made to households in 2021.
“It raises concerns from our perspective that payments for the wrong amounts could be made to ineligible tenants,” said Danielle Garcia-Diaz, executive director of the GAO’s Financial Markets and Community Investment Team.
“Oversight of the ERA program would benefit from data collection and assessment of the risks of improper payment,” the report said. “Without better data collection and reporting, Congress and the Treasury will be deprived of information about program outcomes.”
Read: Applications for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program close at 5 p.m
The report found that the program benefited the neediest families, especially low-income renters who were at risk of eviction.
Members of Congress have held congressional hearings over the past few years about the need for this assistance for low-income families.
“The fear of homelessness became a reality for me,” Georgia renter Katrina Chism said at a July 2021 congressional hearing.
“The program has really helped a lot of people, some needy families that are out there,” Garcia-Diaz said. “But while there are many benefits, I recognize that we are still concerned that the Treasury is not doing enough to monitor this program and make sure that the right families are getting the right money.”
Read: $740 million added to the emergency rental assistance program to help families
The report said the finance ministry had taken steps to improve data collection and reporting, but said there was still more work to be done.
It calls on the department to conduct a detailed assessment of inappropriate risk payments and to publish full details of all payments.
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In response to the GAO report, the Treasury Department said it “will continue to work with Congress to address these gaps in administrative funds for the recovery program to protect the integrity of the program.”