“Vulnerable Renters At Fault? Officials Admit: ‘We Overspent, Repay Us Now’
The COVID-19 pandemic has felt like a cruel and unforgiving epidemic, but it turns out one of the relief efforts designed to offer a helping hand may now need a hand itself. Officials in charge of dispensing aid to vulnerable renters who were overpaid are now asking for that money back. Payments of up to $2,000 per month began to be dispersed to renters in the fall of 2020, as part of the Coronavirus Relief Fund, jointly funded by the federal government and states. The aid was designed to help those struggling to pay their rent due to financial loss associated with the pandemic. However, a problem has arisen due to the setup of the fund which leaves officials responsible for any overpayments, rather than the recipients of the payments. It seems many of those who received the aid were actually due less than what they received, yet the full-amount payments have seemingly already been given out. According to the New York Times, over 58,000 people in New York City alone have received “erroneous payments”, totalling $12 million since January alone. Similarly, local governments in states throughout the US have been receiving notices and demands for the money to be returned. Now faced with the daunting and complex task of tracking down and reclaiming all the errant overpayments, officials are asking for help. Some have called for cooperation with recipients in urgently returning the funds, while others have asked for officers of public assistance to step in and assist with the repayments. The overpayments of pandemic relief illustrate an unfortunate yet predictable consequence of desperate times calling for desperate solutions - in this case the aid was rushed out to help vulnerable individuals in their time of need but has caused a whole new set of issues for officials to face.