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Pandemic aid officials who overpaid vulnerable renters are saying, ‘We messed up, pay us back’



State and local agencies that distributed federal aid to renters facing eviction during the pandemic are now scrambling to claw back millions of dollars in overpayments.

Officials in at least five states have been sending tenants and landlords a flurry of letters, typically citing clerical errors or other bureaucratic mix-ups, demanding that portions of the temporary relief money be returned. Some of the notices ask for five-figure sums within weeks.

Details about the clawbacks are hard to come by, but NBC News identified efforts over the past year in Minnesota, Delaware, Texas, North Carolina and Alaska to recover some of the more than $46 billion in emergency rental assistance that Congress allocated in two sweeping relief packages in 2020 and 2021. The excess funds, which cover a small fraction of that aid, are meant to be returned to the U.S. Treasury or reallocated to others in need.

But with little public guidance from Washington, some recipients are scrambling to dash off checks or appeal the requests, even though many remain vulnerable to many of the same housing disruptions the now-discontinued aid was meant to blunt.

Lenette Lopez, a single mother of two in Bear, Delaware, leaned on the state’s federally backed emergency housing assistance to cover rent after closing her hair salon under lockdown orders in 2020. But in late May, her landlord got a letter asking for over $10,000 back within 30 days, saying Lopez had received payments beyond the 18 months allowed under the program.

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Source: NBC New York

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