Wyoming Rental Program to Stop Accepting Applications in November
According to a press release by the Wyoming Department of Family Services (DFS), the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) will stop accepting new applications and letters of intent (LOI) after Nov. 10, because the DFS said it will run out of federal funds by early spring.
This will only impact people who haven't received ERAP, but the program will continue for now to fund extension requests for enrolled and eligible households.
Since the program began last May, it has distributed $63.34 million, mostly to landlords, in aid to 13,591 households across the state to help cover the cost of rent for people suffering financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most money was paid to people in Laramie County, $12,206,581, followed by $12,018,903 to Natrona County and $8,691,678 to Sweetwater County, with the least amount, $135,493, given to people in Niobrara County.
LOIs are letters given to people who are homeless so they can get housing, and since that program began earlier this year, 4,068 letters have been handed out, and of those, 1,336 have been used to successfully find housing.
Korin Schmidt, Director of the DFS, said in the release:
"If the current spending pattern of almost $6 million per month continues, we would expect to exhaust our rental and utility assistance funds next spring," Schmidt said. "We want to take some proactive steps now to slow down the rate of spending so we can assess the best use of the remaining funds and fulfill our current obligations. Our intent is to wind down the program in a way that gives currently enrolled renters time to prepare their finances to handle their future rental and utility payments. Since the inception of the program, we have had concerns about the impact on renters and landlords when the federal funding runs out. We’ve tried to message to ERAP recipients that these are temporary funds, but when in crisis, it’s often difficult to think months ahead. We’re hoping that slowing down spending will allow us to stretch the dollars as much and as far as possible and avoid an abrupt shutdown."
Wyoming received a second allocation of $45.6 million in assistance from the federal government on Sept. 29 after initially getting $200 million last April.
However, in March of this year, Wyoming returned around $168 million in ERAP back to the federal government because the DFS didn't believe it could use all that money and because there were too many restrictions.
According to the release, Wyoming may get more federal funds, and if it does, the program may continue, though the DFS did not provide any additional details about what would happen if the state got more funds.
Community organizations, like the Natrona County Community Action Partnership, will continue to participate in the ERAP should continue through June 2023 when their contracts end.