Data from the Unite Us network in St. Louis shows the growing demand for rental and mortgage assistance. Demand is high – leading us to ask if CARES Act funding alone is enough and what other services need investment.
Housing as the highest need across all networks
Housing remains the top need across Unite Us’ networks spanning across 40 states, accounting for 30% of all service requests. When we dive deeper, we also find that outcome resolution rates are lower for housing at 69% compared to food assistance at 85% and income assistance at 90%.
This data shows that despite the protections in place for renters and homeowners including CARES Act funding, state and local governments are unable to meet the growing demand for housing assistance, particularly for those who are at risk of eviction, during a time where stable and safe housing is critical to fighting the pandemic.
Within three months, $3MM distributed to over 2500 individuals in St. Louis
We are seeing this first hand in St. Louis where the Unite Us Platform is being used by United Way 2-1-1 Missouri in partnership with the City and County to coordinate and track the disbursement of CARES Act funding for eviction prevention, including rental, mortgage and utility assistance. Starting on August 19th, The Greater St. Louis Community Information Exchange, funded through a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health to the United Way of Greater St. Louis, supported the distribution of funding to its community via the Unite Us Platform. A little more than three months later, the United Way 2-1-1 has used the Unite Us Platform to coordinate the distribution of over $3MM in funding to over 2500 individuals, with thousands of others in the process of receiving support.
This report details the St. Louis City and County CARES Act funding distributed on the Unite Us Platform and the average disbursement per case.
Can supply meet the increased demand?
We are beginning to see demand for services surpass the supply, with 57% of cases being resolved positively. Case resolution rates often indicate a network’s ability to meet the demand of individual and family needs in the community. Time to case closure also indicates a network’s ability to meet the community’s needs. The St. Louis network is experiencing on average 24 days to close a case. As we analyze further in St. Louis, we see that one of the common reasons for an unresolved case and longer case close time is the time required to obtain documentation to meet federal grant requirements. To receive CARES Act funding, each individual must show their loss of income is due to COVID-19, including but not limited to: pre-COVID pay stubs or proof of income, current proof of income or proof of unemployment, proof of a hospital visit if hospitalized, proof of potential eviction and being behind on rent, or a letter from the landlord stating that the person will not be evicted if this month's rent is paid. These requirements present a substantial hurdle for community-based organizations and local governments as they work to meet the immediate needs of individuals impacted by COVID-19, especially while so many are themselves displaced from their workplaces.
“Faced with a seemingly unavoidable wave of homelessness, St. Louis opted to take a systematic approach to addressing the need. By disbursing funds through a common platform with Unite Us, the United Way was able to gain insights for the city and county about the gap between the need and available funding, as well as demographic disparities in housing instability.” - Regina Greer, Chief Impact Officer of United Way of Greater St. Louis
St. Louis is not alone in this struggle. Most American cities are facing not only the infectious spread of COVID-19, but the overwhelming economic impacts of job loss on individuals and families. While cities and counties like St. Louis use these metrics in real-time to identify gaps and divert funding, recruit new providers and partners, or advocate for needed resources, an avalanche of new cases continues to grow.
St. Louis data show the disproportionate impact on women of color
The network data in St. Louis is also telling a familiar and deeply troubling story. COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on women of color. The St. Louis rapid response network tracks demographic data coupled with referral needs and outcomes. The data clearly show that Black women who are heads of their household have been disproportionately impacted by job loss due to the pandemic and face increased risk of eviction.
“This has affected my hours as a caregiver. A lot of people are afraid of others coming to their homes due to COVID-19. I am a single mother of four, I am only working three hours a day, it’s not enough to pay utilities and rent. It’s behind and I’m afraid that my family will be forced out on the streets. I am really trying to stay strong but this pandemic has really changed our lives.”
Did you become unemployed due to COVID-19?
Head of Household Gender Distribution
Moving from response to recovery
Although the data shows the gaps left even after successful disbursement of CARES Act funding, these funds still serve an important role in the larger plan to enable recovery and future resilience for our country and individuals most affected by the pandemic and economic recession.
We need to provide tools to state and local governments to disburse their CARES Act and other emergency funding in the most expedient, coordinated, and trackable way possible – while advocating to expand funding eligibility for people who needed assistance prior to the pandemic. As currently written, CARES Act funding only covers those with loss of income due to the pandemic, not the thousands who were already struggling and who are now in even more dire straits. Using data to identify individual and community-level needs and track outcomes from these disbursements will help state and local governments identify areas for further investment. We are actively working with our partners in St. Louis and others to use this data to inform additional opportunities to fill the gaps identified while also focusing community engagement efforts to onboard organizations that can support co-occurring needs like food, utilities, and income assistance for the broader community launch in Q1 of 2021.
Learn more about how Unite Us can help track and manage CARES Act and other fund distributions to address emergencies in your community today and other COVID response efforts: