NARRATION: As the pandemic stretched on, tenants were falling deeper and deeper into debt.
TERESA TRABUCCO (RIVERSIDE COUNTY TENANT): When, the schools shut down, this is when it all started for me. My son was no longer to attend in-person schooling. And thats where I was unable to work during the week because now Im staying home and doing the home schooling. And our restaurant went down to take-out only.
Since this, its been a journey. Its been an emotional roller coaster. Since September, I have not paid my rent so Im looking at eviction if I dont have 25 percent of my rent paid. But even if I do have that part paid Im still going to owe about $7,500. So wheres that going to come from?
Every couple of months I get notices on my door from the apartment complex letting me know the balance of what I owe at that time, and every time that hits my door, it just brings me to another place. And I just, I cry because just seeing that rack up is just difficult because I dont know how Im going to get out of it. (Cries)
This apartment means a lot to me. Its our safe haven. Its something that Ive worked so hard to keep and provide for us. So its just not an apartment. Its our home.
NARRATION: To help tenants like Teresa Trabuco who were behind on their rent, Congress had allocated billions of dollars one of the largest such efforts in history.
EMILY BENFER: Congress passed federal rental assistance and that ended up amounting to over $46 billion which was the amount the landlord associations and apartment associations said they needed to make themselves whole.
NARRATION: The program was meant to provide rental relief payments to tenants and landlords, and cover back rent, late fees and utility costs.
EMILY BENFER: The same way that weve never had a moratorium before, we have never had the national infrastructure for rental assistance. So, states were ill equipped to actually disperse it to communities. In fact, by the end of June 2021, only $3 billion of $46.5 billion had been distributed to the landlords who needed it and to prevent the housing displacement of those millions of tenants.
RICH KISSEL (LEAVING HIS HOME): See you guys.
RICH KISSEL (LOS ANGELES LANDLORD): We had three tenants that stopped paying altogether. And it became quite a burden now because were talking about ten months, eleven months later now, and the tenants owe me $39,000 and change, and thats a very large sum of money that affects, you know, everything about the building.
In California, although the governor has proclaimed that that theres rent relief and rent relief is coming and weve had to apply and weve applied for the three tenants, but unfortunately, due to some of the administrative difficulties in complying with the application process, the moneys still have not come through.