State rental assistance program updating to get money out quicker

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Administered by the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency in the Department of Public Safety, the HOPE Program promotes housing stability during the ongoing pandemic by providing rent and utility assistance to prevent evictions and utility disconnections.

HOPE Program funding is provided to the state through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant−Coronavirus Response and U.S. Department of Treasury Coronavirus Relief allocations.

Statewide, more than 42,000 people applied and been deemed pre-eligible for help from the HOPE program.

As of Wednesday morning, more than 48,000 grants have been awarded to more than 34,000 households. That leaves more than 7,400 applications yet to be filled.

  • Total amount awarded: $129,899,702
  • Total rent amount awarded: $114,023,886
  • Total utility amount awarded: $15,875,817

The state was processing applications manually. It kept families waiting on funds for months after the application had closed.

Now, the state is moving to an automated system to get funds awarded more quickly. It’s helped approved funds for more than 12-thousand applications in a single day.

A new online portal will also be available for people to more quickly input missing information.

“The case management of going one-by-one was proving to be too time-consuming to get the help out to folks in the time that they need it and so that is why we have done to this formula based automated approach,” said Haley Pfeiffer Haynes, NCORR’s chief of external affairs.

Enticing landlords

While the program provides money for owed back rent and future rent, it’s requirements put landlords in a tricky positions.

The terms meant landlords may not be able to evict someone for the remainder of their lease even if they fell behind again.

Now, the state has changed the policy so landlords can’t even evict someone for 60 days instead.

“This reduces the risk for the landlord but it also protects the renter from being evicted for at least 60 days from the time that the agreement,” said Haynes.

1 in 5 households struggles with rent

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed the latest Census data and found 14 million renters, or one in five renters, was not caught up on rent. It found renters of color were more likely to have difficulty paying their rent during the pandemic than white renters .

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

When it comes to mortgages, the survey found close to 12 million adults were having trouble keeping up with monthly payments.

Hardship was not isolated to the huosing. CBPP also found one in three children living in rentals didn’t have enough to eat either.

If you are experiencing the risk of evictions, click here to read Legal Aid NC’s eviction guide.

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