The House on Friday approved $175 million in emergency rental assistance as people struggle to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers voted 59-8 to approve the money that also requires approval from the Senate, plus Republican Gov. Brad Little’s signature. The money is part of the nearly $900 million the state received under then-President Donald Trump’s coronavirus rescue bill signed into law in December. President Joe Biden last month extended a nationwide eviction ban through the end of March. That puts the financial strain on property owners. Money from Idaho’s program will go to property owners, not renters. The rent assistance money is part of a plan to reduce the spread of the coronavirus by preventing people from falling into homelessness.
Republican Rep. Paul Amador said state officials estimate that 10% of adult renters have fallen behind, and that 34,000 households are at risk of eviction. He said the amount of rent that hasn’t been paid is between $73 million and $103 million. Idaho unemployment spiked from about 3% to nearly 12% last March when COVID-19 entered the state, and Little ordered a temporary shutdown as patients overwhelmed some hospitals and health care workers became ill. Unemployment has since rebounded but not to pre-pandemic levels. Six weeks into the legislative session, the emergency rental assistance is the first significant action to clear either the House or Senate despite urgent calls from groups saying it is needed immediately. The Idaho Housing and Finance Association would administer the emergency rental assistance money. The deadline to spend the federal money is Dec. 31. (AP)