With money running out, state pauses new rental assistance applications

‘More need than money’ in the program, state treasurer says

By: - August 19, 2020 5:00 am
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After the state’s moratorium expires, eviction case filings can proceed in the courts but tenants won’t be evicted until after the CDC’s order expires. (Image by Mario Schmidt from Pixabay)

All $50 million set aside to provide rental assistance in Clark County is expected to run out and the Nevada state treasurer’s office announced it has halted the application process. 

The program began accepting applications July 23 after Nevada Treasurer Zach Conine announced the state would use $30 million of coronavirus relief funding to go toward rent assistance. The state allocated $20 million to Clark County, which also set aside an additional $30 million.

“We believe the $50 million is going to get fully utilized with the people already in line,” Conine said in an interview Tuesday. “So we wanted to put a pause on applications for two reasons. One, we don’t want people to assume there are going to be funds available if we think mathematically that there aren’t. Second, we wanted to give our partners an opportunity to check up on those applications. We have 14 community partners, some larger than others, which means some can get through the queue faster than others.”

Clark County received 25,000 applications for rental assistance with the majority of people requesting two and three months of help. 

Conine said they are still trying to assess how much need is left, but added “there is more need than money in the program.”

“Whether or not that need exists right now and there are people who would get in line if it were still open, or people who might need that help in a month or two weeks or six weeks, we know there is going to be more need,” Conine said. “We are not out of the woods.”

Estimating the need, he continued, was a bit of a moving target and could change if more federal assistance is approved to extend unemployment insurance or pandemic unemployment assistance.

Clark County is working with 14 different nonprofits to process applications. In a previous interview, Help of Southern Nevada alone said it was working through 3,600 applicants. 

Conine said part of the delay has been following up with applicants to seek additional information.

“One of the hold ups we are finding is the delay of getting information back from tenants and landlords,” Conine said. “What we are seeing is some people who apply and get a follow up (email) but don’t respond. We don’t know if they were able to get aid somewhere else or they no longer need aid because they’ve gone back to work.”

While the program is paused, the treasurer’s office is also reviewing other variables that could be hampering program efficiency, such as processing of duplicate applications.

“How many people reached out to three of the housing partners opposed to just one and are in three different lines?” Conine asked. “We also don’t know how many people will be able to come off the need list as they get their unemployment or PUA benefits.”

Of the $30 million funding, the Reno Housing Authority received $5 million, the Nevada Rural Housing Authority received $5 million and the remaining $20 million went to Clark County.  

Both Reno and the Rural Housing Authorities are still accepting applications.

When the Interim Finance Committee approved the transfer of coronavirus relief funds for rental assistance, it attached a clawback provision that could reallocate funds based on needs. The state isn’t considering using the provision at this moment.

Conine said applications are still being processed outside of Clark County and that more outreach is being performed in those areas to ensure renters who might need help are connected to the program. 

“We aren’t going to move funds over until we’ve gotten the rest of the funds out the door and we are sure the need isn’t there,” he said.

Additionally, the state is trying to figure other potential funding sources to continue rental assistance. If and when that happens, the state will “be able to turn that program back on.” 

“We are looking at additional funding from the state bucket,” Conine added. “The rules around (Coronavirus Relief Funding) dollars and what they can be used for keep changing. Every one of those changes brings people back to the drawing board figuring out how to use the funds.”

The importance of rental assistance is heightened as the eviction moratorium for the nonpayment of rent is expected to end Sept. 1

The Nevada Supreme Court is expected to set up an alternative dispute resolution program, which was created by Senate Bill 1 during the special legislative session and stays an eviction for up to 30 days as landlords and tenants work through a mediation process. 

Because of the process of getting rules in place, Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty told lawmakers that program might not be up and running until October. 

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Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle

Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.