PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Department of Housing data shows more than 10,000 renters have submitted applications seeking help from a program designed to help people hurt economically by the coronavirus pandemic.
But the Arizona Republic reports that less than 400 renters statewide have received money from the emergency program or 8% of the funding with more than $4.6 million sitting unused.
Only $395,000 has been approved so far, the newspaper reports.
If funds continue to be distributed at the same rate as in the early weeks, it could take about a year to allocate all the money.
“We recognize that for people needing rental assistance, this is a time-sensitive issue and we are approaching this with urgency,” Arizona Department of Housing spokesperson Janelle Johnsen told the Republic. “We’re working ... to identify roadblocks, find solutions and get dollars out the door faster.”
Arizona Multihousing Association President and CEO Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus said “if tenants don’t get the relief they need, we risk a huge bubble of evictions later this year. And if that rental relief doesn’t also help property owners pay their bills, we risk foreclosures and tanking Arizona’s construction sector and our economy.”
The Department of Housing delegated responsibility for processing applications to 11 community action agencies, which have the most direct contact with families in need.
But some agencies are understaffed, and they face higher demand for services than usual, said Cynthia Zwick, who runs a state association of community action agencies.
Nearly 80% of renters who submitted applications failed to provide enough documentation to be approved, according to the housing department.
Thousands more reportedly have started applications but stopped short of submitting them.
The Arizona Department of Housing initially required two months of bank records, pay stubs from before and after COVID-19 and identification for every adult in a household, regardless of whether they appear on the lease, Johnsen said.
Those requirements have been scaled back to one month of bank records, pay stubs from before and after the pandemic and identification for all adults on the lease.
That still would require roommates who are not family members to share personal financial information to complete the application, even if only one of the renters was affected by COVID-19.
Renters aren’t receiving huge amounts of money from the program.
The average is about $1,000 per applicant, according to state data, putting payouts well below the $2,000 per renter limit set by the state and less than many cities’ median rents.