Metro Council expands pandemic rental assistance scheme; application process could reopen | News

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On Wednesday, the Metro Council unanimously approved an additional $10 million in rent assistance, and another $33 million could be approved next week as the city-parish continues to seek state funding. and the federal government to help households that are still struggling to pay rent and utilities due to the pandemic. – related difficulties.

The influx could cause the city-parish to reopen an application process that was shut down as money ran low.

Council actions at Wednesday’s special meeting specifically expanded the parish-town contract with The Workforce Group from $4 million to $14 million and set a March 23 public hearing for the more than $33 million. dollars of new housing assistance that the parish town has provided.

“They’re cutting us off on candidates’ checks to get around more efficiently and we’re reimbursing the workforce group for that,” said Tasha Saunders, director of community and urban development.

“Are the applications remaining stable, increasing or decreasing?” asked Councilman Aaron Moak.

“We had to stop accepting applications because we were running out of (previously) budgeted funding,” Saunders said. “Our hope is to secure additional funding and to be able to reopen applications. We have approximately 5,000 awaiting review.”

As of Tuesday, the parish town had received 14,383 requests for rent and utility assistance from residents still struggling to pay their bills due to job losses and pandemic-related setbacks.

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Of the more than $43 million in earmarked aid that has already been disbursed by the state and federal government, $36.2 million has gone to struggling households, city officials said Wednesday and of the parish.

It’s a big improvement on the parish town’s slow start with the allocation of funds last year, when it only spent around 40% of housing assistance despite a list of d growing expectation of those who needed money. Officials cited cumbersome applicant approval processes as the main factor preventing money from being disbursed quickly.

Courtney Scott, assistant executive director of the parish-town, said the parish’s emergency rental assistance program has partnered with five nonprofit groups — the YWCA, Urban Restoration Enhancement Corporation, Mid -City Redevelopment Alliance, Habitat for Humanity and Project 70805. — to process applications more efficiently and provide services to those still struggling to recover from the financial impacts of the pandemic.

These efforts included: having a field team to assist enquirers in person at local libraries and tenants, a dedicated landlord point of contact to manage communications between tenants and landlords, and implementing a program eviction diversion program in partnership with Southeast Legal Services who provided assistance to tenants undergoing eviction proceedings.

“To date, our program has processed 8,978 of the 14,383 applications received,” Scott said in an email Wednesday. “Applications closed on (January 7) due to the limitation of funds based on the average of case approvals we have seen.”

Scott said the parish town has submitted a letter to the U.S. Treasury requesting more rent assistance to process the remaining claims.

The Metro Council on Wednesday approved a reallocation of unused money the state received last year for rent subsidies that it should have repaid.

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