Rental Assistance: Oregon to pause program | News

Date: 2021-11-15 08:14:34






The state announced a pause Friday, Nov. 12, in accepting new applications for the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP) for six weeks, starting on Dec. 1, at 11:59 p.m.




Oregon Housing and Community Services estimates that nearly all the $289 million in federal emergency rental assistance allocated by the U.S. Department of Treasury to the state of Oregon has been requested, and the program will be fully subscribed in the coming weeks.

As a result, the state announced a pause Friday, Nov. 12, in accepting new applications for the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP) for six weeks, starting on Dec. 1, at 11:59 p.m. The pause will ensure the state can keep its commitment to every Oregon renter that applies for assistance until that time. In the intervening weeks, OHCS will work with the Governor’s Office and legislative leaders to pursue solutions at the federal, state, and local levels to continue to help Oregon renters.

The state allocated the federal funding more quickly than many other counties and states. Oregon is currently ranked 7th nationwide in percent of federal emergency rental assistance (ERA1) funds paid or obligated. The U.S. Department of Treasury allocated a total of nearly $360 million to Oregon, in two waves, ERA1 and ERA2. Of that total, $289 was available for rental assistance payments. OHCS estimates that nearly all of the funds for rental assistance have been requested based on applications received to date.

“It is clear the need for emergency rental assistance is far greater than the amount of federal funding available for the program at this time,” OHCS Director Margaret Salazar said. “This pause will allow the agency to advocate for additional federal funding or other resources at the state level, focus on quickly processing applications and assess whether we have adequate funding available to accept new applications.”

The OERAP program has provided more than $130 million in emergency rental assistance to more than 19,600 Oregon renters impacted by the pandemic. In addition to the eviction moratorium and the more than $319 million in rental assistance distributed in 2021, the OERAP program has been critical to staving off evictions for nonpayment statewide. The agency acknowledges that despite these measures, renters are still at risk.

“We continue to be concerned about the many renters who are at risk for experiencing the trauma of eviction. OHCS is working around the clock to continue accelerating payments and we are fighting for more resources for Oregon,” Salazar said.

OHCS will shift the focus to advocating for more federal funding and processing applications currently in the queue. The agency is in the process of formally requesting additional federal funding after the state met a critical benchmark of paying or obligating at least 65% of ERA1 funding by Sept. 30.

At the beginning of October, OHCS submitted a letter requesting U.S. Department of Treasury funding and will submit a formal request next week. In addition, Governor Brown and legislative leaders continue to explore potential solutions using alternative state resources while requests for federal funding are pending.

Anyone who has fallen behind on rent or may get behind on December rent is encouraged to apply for emergency rental assistance right away, but before Dec. 1 at 11:59 p.m. at oregonrentalassistance.org.

After Dec. 1, the agency encourages people to apply for other emergency rental assistance programs across the state to receive the 60-day safe harbor period (90 days in Multnomah County and unincorporated areas of Washington County). Some cities and counties received ERA funding directly from the U.S. Department of Treasury.

People may contact 211 or Community Action Agencies in their area.

During the pause, OHCS and local program administrators will continue processing all remaining completed applications quickly, prioritizing those outside the 60-/90-day windows of protection. The agency expects that all completed applications in the queue will be processed and paid as soon as possible.

OHCS will be notifying anyone with an incomplete application to complete their application before that deadline through a series of correspondences.

If a renter has received an eviction notice, they should call 211. If a renter has received a court summons for eviction, they should call the Oregon Law Center’s Eviction Defense Project line (888-585-9638) or send an email to evictiondefense@oregonlawcenter.org to seek legal help.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued the following statement following the announcement from Oregon Housing and Community Services that nearly all federal rental assistance funding in Oregon has been allocated to or requested by applicants, and that the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP) will pause accepting new applications starting on Wednesday, December 1:

“Since March 2020, Oregon has distributed historic amounts of rental assistance to meet the unprecedented need created by the pandemic. Every Oregonian deserves a warm, safe, dry place to call home––and during a public health crisis it has been critical to ensure that Oregonians stay housed. That is why I have worked closely with the Oregon Legislature since the beginning of this pandemic to provide a range of resources to support both renters and their landlords.

“Because of the work of Oregon Housing and Community Services and community-based partners, Oregon is currently ranked 7th in the nation for the distribution of rental assistance and has remained in the top ten nationally for more than a month. However, thousands of Oregon households remain at risk of eviction and need assistance as quickly as possible. Disproportionately, due to systemic disparities in Oregon housing, this burden has fallen to Oregon’s Black, Indigenous, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and people of color.

“To be clear: Oregon has sufficient federal resources to help all eligible households who have applied to date. OHCS and its partners continue to process every complete application quickly, prioritizing those outside of current safe harbor protections. But with nearly all remaining federal funding requested by existing applicants, it was critical for OHCS to give Oregon families ample notice today that, without additional funding, the program will soon need to pause taking new applications.

“We know that the need for this critical assistance continues. Additional funding is needed urgently to ensure Oregon’s rental assistance program can meet the ongoing need––an ask I have made directly to U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo, who administers the federal rental assistance program. It is not likely, however, that the U.S. Treasury will be able to deploy additional resources for rental assistance immediately.

“Over the last several weeks, I have engaged in conversations with legislative leaders and housing advocates to find a path forward for a legislative solution that involves updates to current tenant protections in state law, including the extension of current safe harbor protections for Oregonians who have applied for rental assistance, as well as using state resources to continue assistance at the state and local levels. But it will be impossible to serve every Oregon family that is struggling with rent with state resources alone. Those conversations will continue, with the goal of bringing forward a proposal for the Legislature to consider in a special session in the upcoming weeks.”




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