Money for Louisiana rental assistance program could run out sooner than later

Money for Louisiana rental assistance program could run out sooner than later
For Rent sign - generic graphic (Source: WAFF)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -Louisiana residents falling behind on rent due the COVID-19 pandemic can now take advantage of the states rental assistance program.

The program will take those who qualify and pay up to three months of their rent.

But those on the front lines of the housing crisis say the money doesn't go nearly far enough.

“The program is available to start taking applications. This will be administered on a first come first serve basis,” Governor Edwards said in a press conference Thursday.

With up to $24 million currently allocated, state officials say those who meet certain requirements should apply now if they’ve been unable to make their rent payments.

“There will be some applicants who will not be applicable to this program and I want to be clear, individuals who are already receiving governmental rental assistance will not be eligible to this program. Those who are living in public housing will not be applicable to this program,” said Kieth Cunningham with the Louisiana Housing Corporation.

Andreanecia Morris is the Executive Director of HousingNOLA says that $24 million won’t even scratch the surface of the number of renters who can’t make ends meet right now due to COVID-19 and it’s frustrating when looking at dollars spent in other areas of need.

“We don’t understand this. This is a pre-COVID problem. It’s the inability to put housing first,” she said. “It’s been very confusing. We wish we had more time to examine it. We wish that they had been in more communication with us.”

Morris says according to her teams most generous estimates, there should be at least $200 million tacked on the program to cover those who need rental assistance and that the requirements, like a cap on income, will make it hard for many to qualify anyway.

14 percent of Louisianians are struggling right now. That’s 146,0000 households. $24 million divided by 146,000 isn’t even $200. So if the programs that are being rolled out don’t even match their analysis, we’re looking at census data that says over 300,000 households missed rent,” Morris said.

And while the state has said it will hopefully be able to allocate more money down the road, Morris says if evictions start to skyrocket, the housing crisis will quickly become a health crisis.

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