Emergency Rental Assistance Program temporarily suspended due to overwhelming response

The Stoney administration launched a program to provide rent and mortgage assistance to...
The Stoney administration launched a program to provide rent and mortgage assistance to non-citizen and mixed immigration status households in Richmond.(Pixabay)
Updated: Jul. 20, 2020 at 5:52 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - In less than four days, more than 40,000 renters have expressed interest in the Louisiana Emergency Rental Assistance Program, prompting state officials to temporarily suspend the program.

“The response to our state’s emergency rental assistance program proves how significant the economic burden of COVID-19 is for our citizens,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “This program was designed to help mitigate and off-set evictions and homelessness, and while we have allocated an additional $17 million for a total of $24 million in federal assistance, we know that much more is needed to address this serious crisis for the hard-working men and women who continue to keep our state going during this crisis.”

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Gov. Edwards announced the new program during a press conference on Thursday, July 16. Since then, LaRentHelp.com and the state’s 211 phone line have been overwhelmed. Although the application process has been suspended, you can continue to sign up for notifications about the opening of future phases.

“We know there are many individuals and families whose lives have been upended by this pandemic and that there is a great sense of urgency for housing assistance,” said LHC Executive Director E. Keith Cunningham Jr. “As the state’s housing agency, we are committed to doing everything we can to meet the needs of renters and landlords and are hopeful that additional federal dollars will become available as soon as possible.”

This first phase of the program was distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and is paid for with a $7 million HOME Investment Partnership Program.

Future phases of the program will be funded by $5 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds and $12 million in Emergency Solution Grant funds. Officials have not said when those funds will be secured and available.

All the funding is provided to the state from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In an interview with WAFB’s sister station, WVUE, Andreanecia Morris, executive director of HousingNOLA, said there are roughly 146,000 households in Louisiana that have been impacted by the pandemic. That’s roughly 14% of the population.

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

Morris noted if the future funds are not secured fast and evictions start to skyrocket, the housing crisis will become a health crisis.

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