An eleventh-hour announcement from the federal government means Oregon can keep its emergency rental assistance program open for applications for one more week, which could help an additional 2,200 households.
Oregon Housing and Community Services announced Tuesday that the US Treasury Department will give the state an additional $16 million to help those who continue to struggle to pay rent or catch up on rent arrears.
The national housing agency was forced to close its application portal on December 1 after running out of money; the initial $289 million allocated to it went to a historic number of requests for help.
Oregon lawmakers briefly returned to Salem in December to spend an additional $215 million on the rental assistance program and other strategies to prevent evictions.
This money allowed the portal to reopen on January 26, but was to close on March 14. The agency says this new round of federal funding will allow them to help about 2,200 additional households.
The state has received more than 24,000 new applications since the portal reopened a month and a half ago. New requests will be processed in order of those most urgently needed to keep them housed.
“Our message to the U.S. Treasury remains loud and clear: If other states have money they can’t use, send those dollars to Oregon,” said Jill Smith, acting director of government stabilization. state housing.
According to the agency’s online reporting dashboard, the state has distributed just over $289 million to about 40,000 households. An additional $208 million has been requested by more than 18,000 households whose applications are pending.
The agency has touted itself as one of the top performers among states with federally funded rental assistance programs, and state housing officials had known for months that Oregon would receive additional funding. , but the timing was unclear.
Despite a record number of dollars spent in a short period of time, the program suffered from hiccups. The early days of the program saw widespread technical issues with the application system, and many of those who needed the money most were unaware of their eligibility. The distribution of money has sometimes been at a snail’s pace and bad checks have been cut to landlords and tenants.
The agency also lost its chief executive during its most tumultuous period when former state housing director Margaret Salazar jumped ship for a job with the federal government. Former Director of Housing Stabilization, Andrea Bell, assumes the role of Acting Executive Director.
Dozens of lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, have called for a performance audit of the agency’s work by the office of Secretary of State Shemia Fagan; it’s planned for later this year.
Governor Kate Brown made no firm announcement about the future of leadership at the beleaguered state agency. She said she was grateful for the Biden administration’s decision to send more money for rent assistance to Oregon.