Housing advocates in Louisiana critical of state program designed to help renters

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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WGNO) — As if the pandemic housing crisis across the country isn’t enough for renters to deal with, housing advocates at the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance(GNOHA) say that the State of Louisiana has been negligent in not distributing monies that were designed to help struggling renters.

Andreanecia Morris of GNOHA says, “The big concern we have is the fact that we have millions of dollars of rental assistance that has just been sitting at the state level that could have stabilized households for the past 6 months.”

Morris said the state allowed the December 30th deadine to pass on Cares Act money dedicated to housing, and we’re still in a housing crisis.

Morris claims, “People are still getting evicted despite the moratorium because they have not been able to pay their rents.”

That CDC moratorium has been extended to January 31st, and the housing advocates allege that the state has only helped a little over 700 of the 40,000 people that applied.

Clerk of Civil District Court Austin Badon says that while waiting for assistance, renters should maintain a working relationship with their landlords

“What I tell tenants all the time is make sure you have sometime of dialogue with your landlord to come up with a win win situation,” said Badon.

After all, the rents will have to be caught up at some point. Morris and other housing advocates blame a poorly designed program with antiquated controls on the state level for a lack of help.

“In the middle of a global pandemic, we continue to hold on to these hateful biases about people who need help,” said Morris.

Shauna Sanford, a spokesperson for Governor John Bel Edwards’ office provided WGNO this statement:

“The LHC sponsored Louisiana Rental Assistance Program (LERAP) was not funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund and was not subject to the December 31, 2020 deadline.

The rental assistance portion of the recently passed Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) allows for dollars to be allocated through September 30, 2021. We are still waiting on program guidance, which we expect to receive this month.

As of today, LERAP has allocated rental assistance to over 5772 eligible individuals for a total of $13,106,371.  Of that population 736 applicants (totaling $1,771,405) have provided the necessary documentation needed for payment to be disbursed. The remaining 5,000 applicants are in the final stages of completing the process.”  

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