WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Republican Whip and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) sent a letter to the Select Subcommittee Chairman James Clyburn (D-S.C.) emphasizing the Biden Administration’s embarrassing lack of desire to deliver emergency rental assistance to millions of suffering families and reiterated the need for the Chairman to follow through on his commitment to invite U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to appear before the Subcommittee.
“Secretary Yellen needs to explain the challenges the Biden Administration is facing in states like New York. As of July 31, 2021, only about $4.9 billion of the $46 billion that Congress allocated for rental assistance had reached renters in need,” wrote Ranking Member Scalise. “Just last week, Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters refused to invite Secretary Yellen to a hearing on Treasury’s emergency rental assistance programs. This is just the latest in a series of attempts by the Democrat majority to shield Secretary Yellen from accountability for these mounting failures.”
On July 21, 2021, Ranking Member Scalise requested Chairman Clyburn to invite Treasury Secretary Yellen to testify at an upcoming hearing on the Biden Administration’s ineffective implementation of federal rental assistance programs. The hearing proceeded without crucial testimony from Secretary Yellen, leaving unanswered questions and desperate renters in the dark.
“The stark reality is that the Treasury Department has disbursed less than 11% of the emergency rental assistance funds allocated by Congress. This shows an embarrassing lack of desire to deliver for the millions of families who are devastated by the Biden Administration’s failures. Meanwhile, an eight-month streak of crippling inflation, a weak jobs report, and a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the Biden Administration’s failure to confront these crises, all combined to cause consumer confidence to retreat to its lowest level since February 2021,” concluded Ranking Member Scalise.
Considering the Biden Administration’s ongoing failures, Ranking Member Scalise is respectfully reminding Chairman Clyburn of his commitment to invite Secretary Yellen to appear before the Subcommittee.
September 20, 2021
Dear Chairman Clyburn:
On July 21, 2021, I requested that you invite Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to testify at an upcoming hearing on the Biden Administration’s ineffective implementation of federal rental assistance programs that Congress passed. So far you have not compelled Secretary Yellen to participate in a public hearing to address this catastrophic failure.
On July 27, 2021, the hearing proceeded without Secretary Yellen—as millions of renters across the country waited for relief just days before the expiration of a federal eviction moratorium. Without testimony from a witness who could explain the Biden Administration’s plan to disburse long overdue emergency rental assistance, renters were left to question whether there was any plan at all.
Their answer arrived on August 3, 2021, when the Biden Administration issued another illegal eviction moratorium, just days after issuing a statement acknowledging “the Supreme Court has made clear” the option to extend the moratorium “is no longer available.” Predictably, the Supreme Court struck down the Biden Administration’s unconstitutional end-run around Congress, and renters remained no closer to receiving their share of $46 billion in relief that Congress initially appropriated in December 2020 on a bipartisan basis.
Perhaps the one bit of good news for renters came in the form of your commitment to invite Secretary Yellen “when the House returns to session following the August district work period . . . to testify on the implementation of this and all the essential relief programs . . . that are being administered by her Department.” In a related response to my request for Secretary Yellen to appear before the Subcommittee, you further stated, “[G]iven the role of the Department of the Treasury in administering several essential programs established by Congress to mitigate the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, I agree that the Select Subcommittee would be well served by a hearing with Secretary Yellen.”
Rather than schedule such a hearing, however, Subcommittee Democrats attempted to shift the blame to Republican governors by issuing a series of letters seeking data from Wyoming, Alabama, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Arkansas. The partisan nature of your letters, which incorrectly stated “[t]he slow distribution of rental assistance funds by state governments can hardly be attributed to a lack of federal support,” was made clear by the fact that you ignored poor performing Democrat-led states, including the state that disbursed funds at a lower rate than any other: New York. In fact, in terms of disbursing the rental assistance funds appropriated by Congress in December 2020, New York and South Carolina lag behind all others, but you sent a soft-touch, non-public letter to your home state, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster on August 30, 2021. According to the Treasury Department’s most recent data, New York and South Carolina have disbursed 0.34 percent and 0.87 percent of their respective allocations, the lowest rates in the nation.
Your letters to Republican-led states also ignored the fact that decisions by state leaders throughout the pandemic led to divergent economic conditions and placed renters in very different circumstances, depending on where they live. In response to your letter to South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem stated:
Today, South Dakota has the strongest economy of any state in America. Our renters enjoy something even better than government hand-outs: a job. South Dakota’s unemployment rate is 2.9% . . . South Dakota was the only state in America never to order a single business to close.
Because I respected my authority as governor and did not shut my state down, our renters are in a strong position to keep paying their bills and provide a good life for their families. If renters in other states are in need of government assistance, it’s because government overreach throughout the pandemic put them in such a position in the first place.
Governor McMaster of South Carolina is similarly positioned with low unemployment rates since he also refused to entirely shutter his state’s economy.
The stark reality is that the Treasury Department has disbursed less than 11% of the emergency rental assistance funds allocated by Congress. This shows an embarrassing lack of desire to deliver for the millions of families who are devastated by the Biden Administration’s failures. Meanwhile, an eight-month streak of crippling inflation, a weak jobs report, and a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the Biden Administration’s failure to confront these crises, all 10 combined to cause consumer confidence to retreat to its lowest level since February 2021. In light of the foregoing, I respectfully remind you of your commitment to invite Secretary Yellen to appear before the Subcommittee to answer questions about the Biden Administration’s ongoing failure to help renters in need. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Steve J. Scalise, Ranking Member, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis