WASHINGTON DC – A new watchdog report is revealing that the federal government is missing data for more than a quarter of the rental assistance payments made in 2021.
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The Treasury Department is responsible for managing the more than $46 billion allocated to the emergency rental assistance (ERA) program, which was put in place to help low-income families who have suffered hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) raised concerns about oversight since the findings show that the Treasury Department is missing data on 26 percent of payments made to families in 2021.
“That kind of raises concerns from our perspective that payments could be made to ineligible tenants for incorrect amounts,” said Daniel Garcia-Diaz, GAO’s Director of Financial Markets Management and Community Investment Team.
“Oversight of the ERA program would benefit from improved data collection and assessment of improper payment risks,” the report said. “Without better data collection and reporting, Congress and the Treasury will lack information on program outcomes.”
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The report shows that the program benefited the most needy families, especially low-income renters who were at risk of eviction.
Members of Congress have been holding Congressional hearings for the past few years about the need for this assistance for low-income families.
“The fear of homelessness dawned on me,” Katrina Chism, a renter in Georgia, said during a July 2021 congressional hearing.
“The program has helped a lot of people, some of the most needy families out there,” Garcia-Diaz said. “But while there are many benefits, I think we still have concerns about the Fund not doing enough to oversee this program and make sure the right families are getting the right amounts.”
Read: Added $740 million to the emergency rental assistance program to help families
The report said the Treasury Department has taken steps to improve data collection and reporting but said more work still needs to be done.
It calls on the Department to provide a detailed assessment of inappropriate risk payments and to publish full details from each payment.
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In response to the GAO report, the Treasury Department said it will “continue to contact Congress to resolve the gaps in the program to recover administrative funds in order to protect the integrity of the program.”