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Less Than 3K New Orleans Renters Have Received Aid; Councilmember Wants Explanation

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Jesse Hardman
/
New Orleans City Hall

Of the more than 18,000 New Orleans applicants who signed up for the city’s rental assistance program, officials said only about 3,600 of them were approved to receive funds or have found assistance from a program that has been slow to help renters fearing eviction during the COVID pandemic.

To get an explanation on what’s taking so long, New Orleans City Councilmember Jared Brossett called on the city’s chief administrative officer Gilbert Montano to give a five-part presentation Wednesday, which must include updates on the use of the city’s rental assistance funds, controlling blight and affordable housing.

The Rental Assistance Program, funded by the state and federal government, began as a way to aid residents who lost their job due to the pandemic, with a total of 18,156 signed up as of Aug. 24. New Orleans officials said the true number of applications is closer to 12,000 due to renters living outside of Orleans Parish applying, which are denied, or some applying twice.

But only 3,596 renters have been approved, and around 2,900 of those approved have found actual assistance. Advocates say the ongoing problems with the program could mean mass evictions in New Orleans when the CDC’s eviction moratorium ends October 3.

The city expects the program to eventually distribute $46 million, but is still waiting on funds from both the state and the U.S. Treasury. More than $18 million has been dispersed, mainly to landlords.

Remaining applicants should receive their funds over the next two weeks from a recent $5.6 million payment from the state, officials said.

Cantrell called her office's efforts to assist renters "proactive" in a tweet seemingly aimed at critics like Brossett. Her administration plans to hold a third Rental Assistance Program event at Joe Brown Park in New Orleans East from August 31 to September 2, inviting renters to apply for funds.

Both Brossett and Cantrell are vying for re-election. Brossett is termed out of his current City Council District D position but is running for an At-Large position against District C Councilmember Kristen Gisleson Palmer and former state Sen. JP Morrell.

Cantrell could have an easy path to re-election due to her large campaign purse of $600,000 and COVID delaying opponents' campaigns from gaining traction.

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