Marshallese community face barriers applying for emergency rental assistance; Millions of dollars available in relief


NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) – The state of Arkansas received millions of dollars of COVID-19 emergency rental assistance. A local man is taking it upon himself to make sure one community has the help they need to apply for funds.

The Marshallese community was hit hard during the pandemic and some are struggling to make ends meet. However, there are several barriers keeping them from having access to rental assistance.

Albious Latior is the Marshallese COVID-19 Outreach Coordinator. He works through Good Shepherd Lutheran church.

For the past month, he has been helping his community members apply for emergency rental assistance. The money helps those impacted by the health crisis and can be used for back or future rent and utility expenses.

Latior says because of the language barrier, many in this community don’t know about the program, and those who do know are having a tough time completing the application online

“At this moment a lot of them are evicted because they stay last minute or they don’t know there is help out there. So, it is our job to go out there and tell them we have help that you can get,” said Latior.

He put a call out on social media and reached out to the county for help. He was able to train about a dozen people to help others fill out applications and even received two donated laptops to help.

Washington County is now partnering with local Marshallese and Hispanic organizations to provide translation services for the emergency rental application and to increase outreach efforts of the program

Latior says his team helped about 200 people apply for rental assistance. He says he will continue to help whoever walks through these doors.

Futhermore, the state of Arkansas received more than $200 million to help folks affected by the health crisis to cover rent and utility expenses but getting checks out is proven to be challenging.

$173 million is being given out through the statewide program. So far, $7.2 million of that money has been given out, helping about 2,900 households.

The rest of the money is being distributed through the larger counties in the state. Washington County received about $7.1 million, Benton County received about $8.4 million and Pulaski County received about $11.2 million.

Deputy Chief of Communications for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Gavin Lesnick says they are doing the best they can to get the money out to help keep folks in their homes and to get the word out about the program.

“It’s important to remember that this is a new program and this did not exist prior to mid-may and it does take some time to get it up and running, all the processes set and to optimize them,” said Lesnick.

Now Lesnick says there are delays in the application process to get all of the documents from applicants and to reach all of the landlords.

He adds there has been progress made in recent weeks and they are paying out about a million dollars in rent relief a week and expect that to continue to grow.

Now the state was given until the end of September to have at least 65% of the money distributed.
Lesnick says they will be working with the treasury department to discuss their options and the specifics of this deadline.

Hark at Excellerate Foundation has partnered with Benton County to help distribute the $8.4 million of emergency rental assistance. As of Monday, they have surpassed $5.6 million and expect all of the money to be given out by the end of November. The county is also receiving an additional $6.6 million for rental relief efforts

Over in Washington County, the $7.1 million funds were divided up within the county. Fayetteville Housing Authority received $1.5 million, and 100% of those funds have been given out. Springdale Housing Authority received $1.5 million and has distributed just over $500,000. The rest of the funds are being distributed by the county.

To apply head to AR.GOV/RENTRELIEF

  • Arkansas Total Allocation for Emergency Rental Assitance :  $200,961,311.80
    • Washington County Award:  $7,167,562.90
    • Benton County Award:  $8,364,838.70
    • Pulaski County Award: $11,744,144.70
    • State of Arkansas Award:  $173,684,765.50

What’s Covered?

You may qualify for help paying your rent and utilities if:

  • Someone in your home qualifies for unemployment benefits OR
  • Your household income decreased during the pandemic OR
  • Someone in your home suffered significant financial hardship due to the pandemic (i.e. lost a job, has extensive medical bills) AND
  • You meet income eligibility based on the residing county (Area Median Income) and number of people in your home. A chart of Area Median Income is available by clicking here.

Renter Requirements
Renters need the following items to submit a request for utility or rent relief funding: 

  • Government-issued photo ID (i.e. driver’s license, state identification card)
  • Proof of renting a home in Arkansas
  • Proof of housing instability
  • Proof of income for everyone in your home who file taxes
  • Proof of financial loss of hardship due to COVID-19
  • Landlord’s email and phone number

Find more information on required documents in the resources section below.

Landlord Requirements
Landlords need the following documentation to submit a request for rent relief funding:

  • Copy of lease
  • Government issued photo ID
  • Tenant’s email and phone number

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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