12-02-2021  1:43 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 19 October 2021

Today Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) shared that the agency and Local Program Administrators (LPAs) are making steady progress on application processing for the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP). As of today, OHCS and LPAs have paid more than $92.3 million in federal emergency rental assistance (ERA1) to 14,304 applicants, and committed an additional $53.4 million for 6,664 households, for a total of $165.6 million for 20,968 households to date. 

The agency also urged renters who may be eligible for OERAP to apply right away and to know their rights if they receive an eviction notice.

“OHCS and LPAs continue to increase processing speed for OERAP applications, while the demand continues to increase,” said Margaret Salazar, executive director of OHCS. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to distributing rental assistance as quickly as possible and leveraging our government and nonprofit partners to keep families safely and affordably housed.

"We’re making progress, and we encourage people who may be eligible for assistance to apply immediately.”

The National Low Income Housing Coalition ranked Oregon eighth in the nation in percentage of federal ERA1 funds distributed to date. After confirming that Oregon has paid or obligated at least 65% of funds through Sept. 30, OHCS sent a letter to the U.S. Treasury to ask for additional rental assistance funding. The agency anticipates that the Treasury will soon provide more information about the plan to reallocate funding and steps states should take to request more dollars. 

The agency is currently in talks with federal and state officials about how much additional funding the state will need to request to meet the urgent needs of Oregon families. To date, Oregon households have requested more than $305.9 million in ERA1 funds.

Progress and Updated Numbers 

As of this week, OHCS and LPAs have:

  • Paid $92.3 million to landlords on behalf of 14,304 Oregon families, including $22.7 million in the past two weeks alone. $61.5 million of total funds were distributed since the end of August.  
  • Processed and obligated an additional $53.4 million in funds for 6,664 households, meaning those applications are in the final steps of processing or have been submitted for funding.  
  • Received more than $305.9 million in federal ERA1 funding requests via applications received.  
  • Received more than 38,400 completed applications. 
  • About 26% of applications (13,378) have been started but not completed for submission. 
  • About 20,116 applications are still in the review process. 

The agency’s previously announced three-point plan is helping drive forward momentum and ensure OHCS and LPAs can process applications rapidly. The plan outlines key steps to accelerate application including: 

  1. Increasing capacity with its vendor, Public Partnerships LLC (PPL). Currently more 134 PPL staff are processing applications on behalf of counties with applications outside the 60- / 90-day window of protection.   
  2. Making contract amendments to LPA contracts to ensure use all federal flexibilities are used consistently across the state; and  
  3. Establishing clear weekly benchmarks for all processing partners. In the past week, PPL processed 620 applications, exceeding the 500-application target. 

Current Eviction Landscape 

According to the Oregon Law Center, the state saw 361 evictions move forward in July, 462 in Aug. and 473 in Sept. To date, 11,200 applications are outside the respective 60-/90-day windows of protection afforded by Senate Bill 278. Because the window begins when a tenant shows their landlord proof they applied for OERAP or another rental assistance program, this data cannot be tracked. 

As part of the ERA1 grant, OHCS is funding community based groups including the Oregon Law Center’s Eviction Defense Project and the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) to connect tenants facing eviction with legal services. 

Grant dollars awarded to the Oregon Law Center will be used to provide more statewide coverage for legal aid organizations, capture high-quality data on eviction trends and build up the organization’s network of legal aid lawyers. Funding provided to IRCO will help the organization increase statewide access to IRCO’s Connect Line, especially for immigrants and refugees facing housing instability. IRCO will also allocate part of their funding to enhance, create and expand access to Immigrant Legal Services.

Guidance for Tenants Facing Eviction 

The agency has the following guidance for tenants who are facing eviction or are behind on rent payments:

  • If a renter has fallen behind on rent after July 1, 2021, call 211 right away and apply at oregonrentalassistance.org. The agency has developed an application checklist for tenants to use and the application is currently available in five languages.  
  • If a renter owes back rent prior to July 1, 2021, they should apply at oregonrentalassistance.org. Rent owed prior to that date is not due until February 28, 2022, thanks to Senate Bill 282.  
  • If a renter received an eviction notice for nonpayment of rent, they should call 211 right away. They should not leave right away because there are numerous resources and legal services available to them.  
  • If a renter receives a court summons, contact the Oregon Law Center’s Eviction Defense Project line (888-585-9638) or email the Project ([email protected]) to seek legal help. 

Visit the OERAP dashboard here for more data.

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