OREGON, USA — For people across the state, emergency rental assistance through Oregon Housing and Community Services has been a lifeline and a source of stability during the pandemic. The agency paid out more than $289 million to tens of thousands of households.
"During this historic crisis that we've all been going through the last few years, OHCS has responded with historic speed to provide rental assistance to more than 40,000 households - and what that means is we have supported an estimated 104,600 people in those households that we serve," explained Jill Smith, the interim director of Housing Stabilization at OHCS.
However, this aid is coming to an end next week. The Oregon Rental Assistance Program will close to new applicants on March 14 at 11:59 p.m. Renters who haven't applied in the past and have fallen behind on rent are urged to apply, sooner rather than later.
"I'm sure you're wondering why, with so much need, are we closing this portal?" Smith said during a press conference Monday, "I want to assure you that we know that the need is great and we want to help everyone, every household need. Unfortunately, that is just simply not possible due to limited funding."
Back in December, the state paused new applications due to dwindling federal funds but opened the portal back up at the end of January after state lawmakers allocated $100 million dollars to support renters facing eviction.
The housing agency also redirected nearly $13 million dollars of its budget - to support an additional 1,900 households.
However, after being open for longer than initially expected, the portal will close - likely, for good.
"We will soon have completely committed or paid out all available funding including new funding that was received at the most recent short session," Smith explained, "We do not intend at this time to re-open the portal, but if there was the opportunity to do so, we would certainly consider that."
Keep in mind, if a person has previously submitted an application, or began an application, the portal closure will not impact them immediately. Those applications that were previously submitted will still be processed. Additionally, renters are protected from eviction after submitting an application until they hear back from the agency.
OHCS said applications will be approved for payment or denied, based upon the highest need - not first-come-first-serve. According to an online dashboard for the rental assistance program, 18,000 applications remained to be processed.