Pima County rental assistance program during pandemic set to end in February

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 7:41 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which has helped 20,000 Pima County residents stay in their homes since the pandemic and has saved countless landlords from going bankrupt, is running out of money.

It will stop taking applications on Wednesday, Dec. 14 and shutter the program in February.

“We’ve always known that the program was a temporary program,” said Andrew Flagg, deputy director of the Community and Workforce Development in Pima County. “It wasn’t designed to be ongoing in perpetuity.”

The county initially started with $27 million in federal funding but that wasn’t enough. It applied for and received another $32 million. $59 million in federal funds which is now gone even though the need has not fully abated.

“It’s a concern that there’s a substantial need out there,” Flagg said. “It’s going to be a problem that we have to deal with and try to throw all the resources that we do have to try to reduce that.”

With the biggest financial resource drying up, the next concern will be whether it will lead to an eviction explosion as rents increase and people face a tough time paying the monthly tab without assistance.

“We have continued to see quite a large number of applications, it’s been as many as a hundred a day,” he said. “The demand has continued to be substantial.”

The county website will stop taking applications at midweek. It pays up to 15 months back rent and three months into the future. But the key words on the site are.. “there is a long waiting list” so apply as soon as possible to get into the cue.

“We do have that backlog now and the county has made the decision to shut down the portal on Wednesday to try to process through what we have in the cue,” Flagg said.

The county predicts it will run out of money in February.

The average check written over the past two and a half years have been about $6,500 and the checks are cut to the landlords not to the renters. It’s kept many small landlords afloat.

“Especially what we call the mom and pop landlords,” Flagg said. “The landlords who own three, four, five or six units and maybe have mortgages on some or all of them and therefore depend on the cash flow they see coming from the rent every month.”

The county has also made application for more federal funding but it’s not likely to show up until spring, if it does at all.

It’s also asked the state for some of its COVID, funding but is not optimistic.