7 months since HOPE Program launched, NC renters and landlords still wait for money

It's been seven months since the HOPE Program in North Carolina launched, which provides rental and utility assistance to renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and frustrated renters and landlords continue to turn to Troubleshooter Diane Wilson for help in getting their promised funds.

"I just wish they would do what they say and not linger me on," Denise Woody said.

She applied for the program when it opened in October and was approved for both rental and utility assistance.

She, along with her landlord, signed the required documents in December from HOPE.

"They said they sent a check March 3rd, 2021, it's May 4th and he still hasn't received anything," she said.

It's the same waiting game for landlord Callista Johnson.

Her agreement with the HOPE was also signed back in December.

"As a landlord, when you agree to something like this, or this program you have no idea it's gonna take this long for the process," Johnson said.

She says her tenant hasn't paid rent since July of 2020 and she's owed $5,400 from HOPE.

"You're not getting money from the tenant. You're not getting money from the HOPE Program," she said. "If you have a mortgage on the property that you're renting then you have the mortgage companies still looking for their money. So, the landlord is based on the further and further in the hole just waiting. It's putting everybody in a hardship, the landlord in a hardship, the tenants in a hardship and the money is just like sitting there."

Over the last few months, we've highlighted similar struggles with getting funding to the landlords. Besides being fearful of getting evicted while waiting for HOPE funding, some renters also dealt with their utility company threatening to shut off their power.

Troubleshooter Diane Wilson got Johnson's and Woody's cases to HOPE representatives, along with two other cases.

Laura Hogshead with HOPE said: "We are grateful to you for you bringing the ones that slipped through the cracks so we can go ahead and get those awarded."

To date, the HOPE Program has awarded more than $133.3 million for more than 56,471 rent and utility awards, which assisted 36,353 low- and- moderate-income renter households experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. As of today, more than $129.4 million has been paid to landlords and utility providers across the state since the program launched. When it comes to the remaining $3.9 million left to pay, Hogshead they are making every effort to get those funds paid as soon as possible.

She says some of the delays are due to not having the proper paperwork for each case and some of the delays happened when files were transferred between the community partners to HOPE staff, who is now handling all of the cases.

"Having one set of rules, one set of eyes, one set of FAQs and everything, helps us to move forward in a move streamline manner so we certainly did learn that lesson and apply that going forward."

When it comes to moving forward, representatives of HOPE say they are getting ready to open up the program again very soon to give out the second round of Cares Act funding totaling more than $500 million dollars.

If you already got HOPE funds, you can apply again as the new program will provide up to twelve months of rental assistance.

"You can reapply, we will have to count the assistance you already have gotten against that total," Hogshead said. "If you got six months of assistance from us before, you are eligible for another six months as long as you have that COVID financial impact."
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