Evictions looming for those waiting for rental assistance from Wake County, but there is some hope

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Evictions are looming for Wake County tenants waiting for rental assistance through House Wake, the county's rental assistance program, which is run by Telamon.

Despite applying months ago for help, renters and landlords continue to reach out to ABC11 expressing frustrations with the county's program.

Myarshay McDaniel, a renter who applied for help says, "Your assistance is no assistance to me."

She applied last fall and while her online account said it was under review, she said that no matter how many times she called Telamon, she couldn't get answers.

"Nobody answers the phone and so, I'm like, what now. I still haven't heard of denial, approval, or anything, I have just been under review," McDaniel said.

Her landlord is losing patience as she was served a notice that if her full rent is not paid, she must vacate.

McDaniel is not alone as the Troubleshooter has heard from dozens of Wake County renters all waiting for Telamon to approve or deny their applications. Even landlords like Michael Laurenceau are waiting.

"At this point, we're going over a year, and I applied back in March of 2021 to Telamon for rental assistance," he said.

His 80-year-old tenant hasn't paid rent for over a year.

"The mortgage doesn't stop," Laurenceau said. "I keep paying the mortgage."

Laurenceau said he is trying to wait for Telamon to approve his renter's application for help rather than evict her.

"At this point, she's an 80-year-old tenant that's a good person in a tough spot, and I feel bad you know," he said.

He said the lack of answers from Telamon is the most frustrating part.

"There's no response or very little like a maybe an email confirming that you know you might have sent some documents, and then that's it," Laurenceau said.

House Wake recently sent an email to tenants and landlords, which blames the delays on a staffing shortage, claiming prevention specialists have caseloads as high as 500.

To complete outstanding cases, House Wake claims that more support staff has been added and each specialist now has no more than 160 cases each.

According to Telamon, it has 5,299 applications pending and has paid out more than $30 million in rent and utility assistance.

"Each application is unique and that can impact the time between submitting an application, getting in the necessary documents, and final approvals," Telamon said. "Our online portal created has helped us in streamlining this process and we're now seeing an average of about three-five weeks between submissions and approvals, depending on the tenant's and landlord's response times to requested documents. Once an application is approved, it can take 7-10 business days for payments to be processed."

The Troubleshooter asked Wake County why partner with Telamon if it can't handle the workload?

A representative with Wake County replied: "When the House Wake program began in 2020, Wake County asked for proposals for administrators of the program. Telamon was one of only two bids that we release for this purpose. It was initially going to be a much smaller three-month program, as we launched ahead of the nation and used County dollars before there were Federal EP-specific funds available. Wake County continued to take new applications while the program was open for as long as we knew there was funding available to help. The application period is currently closed."

We are hearing good news from renters who reached out for help. McDaniel just checked her online portal with Telamon and more than $9,000 in rental assistance was approved.

"I cried, I cried and I just like thank you, God. I'm so humbled and grateful," she said.

Other renters tell us the same success this week that their rental assistance was approved and their landlord is just waiting for the money.

As for the landlord, Laurenceau he also heard from a caseworker this week. He said she told him more paperwork is needed from his tenant, which he is working with his elderly tenant to try and supply that paperwork so her application can move forward.
There is a House Wake Technical Assistance Community Event planned for Feb. 26, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Southeast Raleigh YMCA to assist those who still have an application pending in the system. Staffers from Telamon will be on-site to assist with all questions related to the status of applications and any issues that may have delayed processing.

"We recognize that many people still waiting in the queue want to know why their paperwork hasn't been approved yet," said Wake County Commissioner Vickie Adamson. "This event will allow applicants to sit down face-to-face with eviction prevention specialists who can walk them through all aspects of their application, answer their questions and help move them through the process as quickly as possible."

This event is only for those who have an application in process or who are looking to recertify. No additional applications for assistance will be accepted.

Assistance provided at the event will include:

  • Help with a submitted application still awaiting eligibility determination;
  • Recertification for applicants who are eligible for additional funding;
  • Missing documents in application packets that may delay processing; and
  • Payment questions such as when tenants can expect to receive payment (there will be NO payments made on-site).
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