FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Governor Asa Hutchinson announces changes to the state rental assistance program to get money to renters faster.

These changes do not benefit renters in Washington and Benton Counties. Because they are two of the largest counties in the state, they are receiving federal funds through the American Rescue Plan rather than the state.

Hutchinson updated the rental assistance program so tenants facing eviction around the state will be prioritized to get money faster.

The governor also said counties using state funds can now give them directly to eligible tenants even if landlords are not complying.

But, in Benton County, this policy was already in place with federal funds.

“From the best of my understanding, we pay that directly to the landlord but the tenant is the one that applies for it,” said Benton County Justice of the Peace Brian Armas.

Tenants can also receive funding directly in Washington County according to Judge Joseph Wood and his executive assistant, Julie Harris.

“We can pay directly to tenants,” said Julie Harris. “The program works best when the landlord and tenant enter our online portal.”

Harris said Washington County was also already prioritizing the applications of eligible tenants facing eviction. Judge Barry Moehring said the same is true for Benton County.

KNWA/FOX24 also asked both judges about the possibility of joining the state rental assistance program if the federal funding is used up. Wood said this is already being discussed with state officials while Moehring said that has not be a consideration for Benton County yet.