More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, county officials have reopened a prior round of emergency relief funds to residents who need help paying the rent — with roughly $30 million in funding still available, according to one official running the program.
The county has distributed multiple rounds of rental assistance since the beginning of the pandemic, beginning with $2 million in an effort spearheaded by Council Member Evan Glass in April 2020.
Since then, the county has distributed about $79 million in rental relief — money that has come directly from the federal government and also through funds from the state. In May, the county announced its fourth round of rental assistance, with $43 million of aid available: $28 million in federal funding and $15 million from the state.
Ilana Branda, the county’s deputy chief for Services to End and Prevent Homelessness, said this week that county officials were able to reopen the application portal because current projections show that there is money remaining after processing the latest round of applications.
According to the county Department of Health and Human Services’ most recent report, about $10.1 million has been distributed or encumbered to households out of about $34.1 million in funding. Branda said given administrative costs of running the program, about $30 million is still available to households.
Some of that will be allocated to applications being processed, but there is funding available to assist between 500 and 800 additional households, Branda said. About 10,600 households have received rental assistance money since the program’s start, per the latest pulse report.
In order to qualify for assistance, households must:
- Provide proof of loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or show a financial impact due to the pandemic, such as a relative or household member dying
- Owe at least two months of rent
- Make at or below 50% of the area median income, or AMI. The maximum for a household of four is $71,150, according to DHHS
- Have lived in the county since August 2021
Branda said it’s “a mixed bag” of reasons why applicants still need rental assistance, including a lack of funding resulting from the pandemic or because of the tangential economic effects. The pandemic has caused shifts in many industries, resulting in the elimination of some jobs and changes in others, she noted.
“I think one of the other things that happened, too, is that for some people, their networks collapsed,” Branda said. “Their connections in terms of finding the route of employment or family relationships or whoever they relied on, some of those completely shifted and changed. And it takes time to re-navigate and figure that out.”
County officials will provide two weeks of notice to the public when they are close to allocating all of the rental funds for this round, Branda said.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org