DE rent assistance closes to new applicants, DSHA points to other resources

 

DELAWARE – A First State rental assistance program spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic has closed to new applicants. Since its launch, the Delaware Housing Assistance Program (DEHAP) has covered $122 million in rent payments, helping about 22,000 Delawareans.

Overwhelming Demand

Delaware State Housing Authority Director of Public Relations, Laurie Jacobs, says the decision to close the portal came from overwhelming demand. “At this point, we are still receiving a significant amount of applications coming in daily. We wanted to be able to manage application volume,” she said.

DEHAP Operations Manger Marva Hammond says between 5,000 and 6,000 applications are in the portal at a given time.

“Those cases are either new cases that have been submitted and they’ve never used the funds before. Or, they’re recertification. So, we may have paid their rent, and they’re looking for future rent payments of three months,” said Hammond. “We’ve kind of gotten it down to a science on the review process, and it’s normally about 60 days to review a case. Sometimes that can go up and down a little bit, depending on holidays, scheduling, and things like that.”

Funds Drying Up

Another looming issue: federal funds that support the program are set to dry up. “At the current rate we were operating under, those program funds would have ended sooner than we had anticipated. So, we closed the program to make sure that we could manage our application volume, and ensure that we still have funding to assist tenants moving forward,” said Jacobs.

DEHAP is funded through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, distributed by the U.S. Treasury Department. Delaware received ERA-1 funding in January of 2021, and ERA-2 funding in May of 2021. ERA-1 funding expired on September 30th, 2022, and ERA-2 funds will be allocated until 2025, unless they run out.

“I think with the announcement of the portal potentially closing down permanently due to the funding, people just submitted an onslaught of applications,” said Hammond. “Although we’d love the federal government to give us another pot of money to be able to assist Delaware tenants and landlords, we don’t see that happening.”

Turning Elsewhere

While DEHAP has closed to new applicants, DSHA officials say they promise to continue helping struggling Delawareans find help.

“Although we are closing the portal for new applications and recertification, we’re still working with our community navigators,” said Hammond. We’re working with the court systems. Our goal is always to keep people housed. So, we will still continue to work with eviction cases while we still have funding.”

Community navigators could prove to be crucial for those looking for a helping hand, says Hammond.

“Those navigators have a knowledge of everything housing related. So, there are maybe other programs that those individuals are qualified for. They could potentially help them apply for benefits that they may not know they’re eligible for,” said Hammond.

Looking Ahead

Any applications submitted prior to 8 a.m. on January 2nd, or those in progress, will still be processed, says Hammond. She adds that eligible cases currently being processed will be paid out through March. DSHA officials say program participants should set April as their goal when it comes to getting back on track with rent and utility payments.

For more information on alternative assistance programs, click here.
Categories: Coronavirus, Delaware, Local News, Money