Governor Hutchinson has endorsed in advance of the steering committee he controls a proposal for a modest boost in rental assistance.

With evictions raging in tenant-unfriendly Arkansas, tragic stories of virus-unemployed tossed on the streets have mounted.

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So the committee that passes on CARES Act funding to the legislature will consider at its 3:30 meeting today adding $4.4 million in CARES Act money and $5.6 million in federal block grant money, which fas expanded eligibility for those with income up to 80 percent of poverty level. The CARES money can be spent only on the poorest families. NOTE: I erroneously reversed eligibility standards for the two money sources in my original post.  Also, the money becomes available immediately not after expiration of CDC eviction moratorium as I originally wrote

Hutchinson has been dodging rental assistance questions for months, encouraging people to seek charity help and encouraging landlords to work with their tenants. Some real help is overdue. I suspect movement comes in part because this is a two-sided coin: Rental assistance helps renters but it also helps landlords who have bills and mortgages to pay.

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This money would be administered by community action agencies and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. It would provide rent payments for up to 2.5 months.

It’s a drop in the bucket of need. A Census survey said some 139,000 Arkansas households can’t pay rent or are at risk of being evicted.

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This money would provide help for about 8,300 households. There are rules:

To qualify for housing assistance, all the criteria listed below must be met.

 

Applicant must:

• Be an Arkansas resident.

• Have a household income at or below 80% of the area median income (e.g., $43,900 annually for a family of 3).

• Have an eligible rent expense that was incurred on or after March 18, 2020 that is past due, except for post-eviction homeless rehousing cases. The program can also only make a payment if it will bring the balance of rent owed to $0. If rental arrears are more than the maximum the program can provide, the tenant is responsible for the remaining balance. If the balance is obtained from another source, the tenant must provide documentation that includes the source of funds and that amount. This is not considered a duplication of benefit.

• Be unable to make the payment(s) owed because of the public health emergency due to a COVID-19 related issue, except for post-eviction homeless rehousing cases.

 

Applicant must provide:

• Proof of identification.

• Proof of rent arrearage (past due rent notice or eviction notice), except for post-eviction homeless rehousing cases.

• Lease or rental agreement, if available, or copies of rent payment receipts, if no formal lease exists, except for post-eviction homeless rehousing cases.

• Proof of gross income from the month prior to application (self-declaration accepted, when applicable).

• Basic demographic information for all household members (name, relationship to applicant, DOB, race/ethnicity, employment status, disability status, and education level).

• A signed CDC Moratorium Declaration, except for post-eviction homeless rehousing cases.

 

Landlord must provide a written declaration that:

• It will accept payment.

• Payment of the rent arrearage will prevent eviction for nonpayment during the CDC moratorium.

• It will not raise rent during the CDC moratorium.

  • All late fees on rent paid by the CAA will be waived.

This should make your heart leap up, given Arkansas’s demonstrated brilliance at computer-based assistance programs. Applications can be done by computer. Community action agencies will assist.

And remember, the state just squandered $165 million in CARES Act money so big business could get a $10 million tax break.

 

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