DOVER — According to a state housing official, while the U.S. Treasury Department has been authorized to pull back funds from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program since Sept. 30, they are continuing to flow into the First State.
Delaware State Housing Authority Director of Policy and Planning Marlena Gibson said federal money continues to be available and administered through the Delaware Housing Assistance Program.
Ms. Gibson said she wants to make clear to the public that ERAP funds continue to be disbursed.
“There’s no immediate impact on the DEHAP,” Ms. Gibson said. “Nothing is being sent back. Nothing is being demanded. We’re still operating. We still have funds.
“They’re just laying out the process on how that would work if it happens.”
According to Ms. Gibson, the Treasury Department is evaluating how to handle excess funds.
“They’ve been very active in putting out guidance and best practices,” she said.
Jeanine Kleimo takes some solace that federal funds remain available for those needing rental assistance.
While the U.S. government could take back unused ERAP funds, she said Thursday that money is available through another source. With federal CARES Act funding that became available Oct. 1, Ms. Kleimo, the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing board president, believes a residentially challenged segment of the population still has support options.
With three DIMH caseworkers able to handle 35 clients each, there’s opportunity to assist would-be renters. The caseworkers confer with candidates, while creating an application that’s submitted to the First State Community Action Agency, which disburses CARES Act funds as approved throughout Kent, Sussex and New Castle counties.
Ms. Kleimo said the funds can only be used for rental aid such as advance deposits and can’t be used to pay past debts. Candidates who are homeless or living in severe poverty must enroll in a life skills program to increase the likelihood that the stability isn’t temporary.
“We want to help some folks move in somewhere more quickly than they would be able to,” Ms. Kleimo said. “We want to make sure that they’re able to get the tools that will allow them to continue to live on their own. We don’t want to set them up for failure down the road.”
First State Community Action Agency Executive Director Bernice Edwards said her organization has more than $500,000 left to distribute by 2023.
“We have been able to help either people avoid eviction, help with utilities or avoid foreclosure,” she said. “Even through the pandemic, our services continued on. We never stopped working with families.”