WGBH: Two years into the pandemic, rental assistance continues to climb

Source: WGBH News

In February, the state issued nearly $65 million through its pandemic-related rental assistance programs, thanks in large part to the March 2021 launch of the federally funded Emergency Rental Assistance Program, according to the state’s dashboard. The February total is nearly double the amount of aid issued in April 2021.

Almost 23,000 Massachusetts households received funds in February, also more than double the number that received funds in April of last year.

“The need remains,” said Steve Farrell, chief operating officer of Metro Housing Boston. “Even if COVID is going away, the housing crisis is not.”

Since Massachusetts’ state of emergency was declared in March 2020, the state has provided $582.4 million through its rental assistance programs overall.

Anne Corbin, director of housing and homelessness prevention for Action for Boston Community Development, said uncertainty about the future of the funding may be contributing to the significant increase.

“A lot of the agencies that are assisting in processing these applications are really doing a lot of outreach to make sure that those that have not yet applied and need the assistance are getting it before the funding runs out,” Corbin said.

The consistent increase in aid contrasts with other economic indicators: unemployment in the commonwealth dropped last year from 7.1% to below 5%, where it remained in January 2022, according to data released Friday by the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

So, while the rental assistance may be helping tenants who need it, it highlights the lack of affordable housing, Corbin said.

“I’m happy that they are adding additional funding, but that is indicative of a bigger issue,” Corbin said.

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