Latest relief bill adds rental assistance, allows landlords to apply directly

Image by forcal35 from Pixabay
Image by forcal35 from Pixabay

Nevada is expected to receive around $206 million from the latest federal relief package for rental and utility assistance, Treasurer Zach Conine told the Nevada Housing Coalition on Thursday. 

The state is still waiting for guidance from the U.S. Office of the Treasury for the new round of funding.

However, Conine said one new rule change limits assistance to people with less than 80 percent of area median income (AMI), a change from the CARES Act, which didn’t have an AMI requirement to access rental assistance dollars. 

Conine said despite the change, he thinks this will still cover the majority of people who apply. 

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said the latest Covid relief package approved at the end of December allocated $25 billion for rental assistance to be dispersed among the states. 

“One feature of the legislation is that landlords will now be able to apply for money to directly pay for the tenant’s rent,” Cortez Masto said. “That should make it faster for the funds to get out a benefit our renters. The funds also include utility assistance for renters, wrap around services and administrative funds to help the agencies that administer these monies.”

The money will be available through the end of 2021.

“The state will receive 55 percent or $206 million or about $113 million,” Conine said. “Clark County will receive about $31 million directly and the City of Las Vegas could receive $19.6 million, Henderson could receive up to $9.6 million and North Las Vegas can receive up to $7.6 million.”

With the 2020 CARES Act funding, the state worked with Clark County, the Reno Housing Authority and the Rural Housing Authority to set up a rental assistance program for tenants to apply for assistance. 

Clark County received 32,000 applications, and 14,000 applications have been processed. 

“The county plans to process about 8,000 to 9,000 applications in the queue using existing (coronavirus relief fund) dollars and then will transition to dollars from the most recent $206 million coming in,” Conine said. 

The Reno Housing Authority and Rural Housing Authority both have about $2.5 million left in existing rental assistance, Conine added. 

“We will be working with all the state agencies and municipalities to try to encourage everyone to continue to use the programs that are out there as opposed to setting up a new program,” Conine said.  

Additional money for rental assistance, along with eviction mediation and the statewide moratorium are expected to curb a potential tsunami in evictions. 

November data from the Las Vegas Justice Court reported 4,263 eviction filings, almost double the 2,387 cases it saw in November 2019.

In December, Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a new declaration preventing most residential evictions through March 31. Unlike his first eviction moratorium, which expired Oct. 15, the new order isn’t automatic and requires tenants to still opt in and submit a declaration in order to be protected.

During Thursday’s presentation, Bailey Bortolin with the Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers, reminded people that evictions are still ongoing. 

“The biggest problem is you hear the word moratorium and see the headlines and you assume you’re protected,” she said. “Because it’s not a universal flat protection, there are still evictions occurring and there are still court hearings occuring.” 

Sarah Saadian, the Vice President of Public Policy with the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said they are working with the incoming Biden Administration about future federal relief, including more funding to provide non-congregate shelter for those experiencing homelessness.

“We are turning our attention to the next Covid relief package, which hopefully will be more comprehensive than this one was,” she said. “We are pushing for an extension and an improvement to the (federal) eviction moratorium.” 

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.