Frustrations raised by Hamernik and Chambers closely echoed concerns from local housing officials, who told the Reno Gazette Journal they simply can’t seem to reach tenants in need.
Lena Frias, director of rental services at the Nevada Rural Housing Authority, said increased outreach to applicants has her five-person team working hard as ever, despite an overall dip in applications.
“We feel the lower success rate is attributable to people just returning back to employment, in the rurals, anyway,” Frias added. “With this round (of federal funding), it doesn’t feel like we’ve helped as many people.
“It’s not for a lack of trying, we’re reaching out to everyone, because our job is to help people. The dynamic is just a little different this time around.”
The Rural Housing Authority has so far spent only about 9 percent of the $14.8 million it’s received in federal aid. Frias said 2,200 people applied for aid approved in March as part of the American Rescue Plan, compared to 5,600 who sought the first round of CARES Act-funded federal rental assistance.
Clark County and the Reno Housing Authority, the agencies tasked with administering a much larger chunk of Nevada’s rental assistance, reported almost equally uneven results.
A spokesman said Clark County has already spent a little more than half of the $305 million it anticipates receiving in federal aid, but did not provide specifics on how many households sought and received the funds. Nevada’s largest county still had an estimated 30,000 aid applications in the pipeline when it was handed a second round of eviction assistance in March.
April Conway, a spokeswoman for the Reno Housing Authority, said her agency had paid out $8.8 million of the $20 million it received under that round of aid, allowing them to cut checks to about 1,150 households as of Aug. 11.
But Conway said the agency was still awaiting paperwork from another 1,800 applicants in need of funds.
Nationwide, more than $45 billion in rental assistance has been approved but not yet used.
“Federally they’ve asked that organizations pay out a certain percentage by a certain date, and we’re certainly meeting those goals,” she added. “The biggest problem is getting paperwork from people.
“Sometimes, especially if you’ve been kind of transient in the last couple years, you might not know where your tax return is or how to make a photocopy of it. But it’s not a high bar.”
Rosen joked that “no one sits on their deathbed wishing they had done more paperwork,” and said she would work on ways to slash the red tape. She later suggested state and local officials could use federal funds to buy up weekly motels and turn them into affordable housing.