Starr Lewis’ aunt and great-uncle both died from COVID-19 at the New Orleans hospital where she worked as a cook.

Lewis, 27, kept going to work as others in the kitchen, too, fell prey to the coronavirus. Soon, the hospital started cutting her hours. By April, she was out of a job. Bills piled on. She fell behind on rent and utilities.

Even many months later, she still hasn’t been able to catch up.

“I’m a person that used to pay her rent on time,” said Lewis, who said she scours the internet all night looking for jobs. “It’s been hard on me because I can’t find help.”

Like Lewis, nearly 40 million Americans behind on rentand threatened with eviction have been waiting on aid from the federal government for nearly a year. Many believed help was on the way after Congress passed on Dec. 21 $25 billion in rental assistance that was supposed to pay rental arrears—in some cases covering up to 12 months of back rent.

But the Emergency Assistance Rental Program won’t benefit all Americans equally, according to a USA TODAY analysis. The government payments will overwhelmingly benefit white Americans living in less populated states even though most Americans and most Americans affected by the pandemic and the recession live in the most populated states.

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