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Emergency rental assistance program to end at the end of the month — except in Ada County

Flickr Creative Commons
Kurt Bauschardt

Idaho’s emergency rental assistance program is concluding at the end of this month due to limited remaining funds.

The Idaho Housing and Finance Association began winding down the COVID relief program last month. Lots of people still needed help with rent and utility payments, and the $38 million pool of federal money the state legislature dedicated to the program was running out more quickly than expected.

Last week, IHFA announced that Dec. 29 is the last day people can apply for relief money.

In November, the organization said $16 million remained for the program intended to last until next June, but the latest announcement said those funds would likely be exhausted in January.

However, those in Ada County can still request support after that. That’s because the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority (BCACHA) has its own pool of rental assistance money from the federal government, and it has enough left – roughly $27 million – to continue, likely through next spring.

Whereas BCACHA is still using its first funding allocation from the federal government, IHFA had to send back $22 million of its first-round funds to be reallocated to other states when they weren't distributed by a certain deadline.

IHFA is hoping the Idaho Legislature signs off on an additional $15.5 million in federal funding that’s already been allocated to the state. That would help the program continue everywhere outside of Ada County for "several additional months."

“It’s our hope that additional funding will be approved early in the coming legislative session, which begins in January,” IHFA said in a notice last week to non-profit organizations.

For the last few weeks of emergency rental assistance, IHFA also walked back a ban on using the rental relief money on hotel stays, which it put in place in October to conserve dwindling resources.

Local housing organizations, such as the Intermountain Fair Housing Council and the Blaine County Charitable Fund, said that option was helpful where people qualifying for assistance couldn’t find available rental units. However, IHFA said for this method, it would only accept a minimum of six-month-long leases signed by both the tenant and the hotel, and submitted before Dec. 29.

Deanna Watson, the executive director of BCACHA, said some states and cities are starting their own emergency rental assistance programs as they start to wind down the federally-funded versions.

"The lessons learned by this are is that the need is far greater than a temporary program can meet," she said.

Since the start of the pandemic, about 34,000 households in Idaho have received help with emergency rental payments, which have covered things like missed rental payments, prospective rental payments, security deposits and late fees.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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