Tenants Worried About Montana's Emergency Housing Assistance Backlog

July 7, 2020

It's the start of the month, which means housing payments are due for many Montanans. Amid the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic, there doesn't yet appear to be large spikes in evictions and foreclosures. 

However, state officials are still having trouble distributing federal housing relief dollars to the people who need them.

As of July 6, more than 1,400 Montanans have applied for the program, which can provide up to $2,000 per month based on income and housing costs.

Two hundred seventy-eight applicants have been approved, while 296 have been rejected. Another 70 applications were withdrawn or found to be duplicated.

Amy Hall, a senior attorney with the Montana Legal Services Association, has heard from several applicants.

"You know, the whole purpose of this emergency housing assistance fund is to get money into the hands of housing providers or mortgage servicers so that folks don't lose their homes. And that needs to happen quickly for it to be effective. So it is pretty discouraging," Hall says.

Division Administrator Cheryl Cohen says many of them are working half-time on housing assistance paperwork in addition to their regular duties. She says another 15 temporary full-time workers are being trained for the job.

Cohen says gathering all the necessary information from applicants, landlords and mortgage servicers has led to the backlog in the program.  

"A lot of the applications we're receiving are incomplete, and so it's that initial back, and forth that's taking longer," Cohen says.

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