Cumberland County agency shuts down rent relief program due to lack of funding

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The community action agency serving Cumberland County has closed its emergency housing assistance program due to a lack of funding.

The program was designed to distribute federal relief funds to people who needed help paying rent or utility bills during the pandemic. He also placed homeless Mainers in hotel and motel rooms.

The Opportunity Alliance informed customers earlier this week that it no longer had enough funds to continue processing rent relief requests and had laid off many employees who were processing such requests.

“We continue to review what is in our system to determine what other applications we can pay for and have prepared tenant notification emails,” said Karen Turgeon, vice president of programs for the Opportunity Alliance, in an email. “It’s a very unfortunate situation that we didn’t anticipate so early in November.”

Katie McGovern, an attorney with Pine Tree Legal Assistance, said she expects to receive more calls from people facing eviction as more state agencies run out of relief funds. remaining rent.

“We had already received more calls about evictions, and I believe the court filings for evictions are increasing now,” she said. “And we’re also getting more calls from people in hotels being told they have to leave.”

The Opportunity Alliance said it has enough funds to cover hotel stays for some 370 homeless people through November, but they will likely receive eviction notices for December.

But McGovern said it’s unclear if that’s the case in other counties because each community action agency distributes the last of its housing assistance funds in a different way.

Pine Tree Legal Assistance received several calls this week from people facing eviction from York County hotels, she added.

“We’re seeing a lot of confusion about what’s going on with the program and whether people who had already applied and therefore thought they would receive assistance, whether they will actually receive assistance,” McGovern said.

MaineHousing had distributed the last funding for the program to community action agencies late last week. In its message to clients, the Opportunity Alliance said the final disbursement was lower than it had expected, and therefore made “the very difficult decision” to close the program.

The organization said it was still working out whether all applicants who thought they would get help paying their rent next month would get help.

In the meantime, McGovern said Pine Tree Legal is focused on helping people apply for general assistance in their city. Municipalities have warned of an overwhelming influx of new general assistance applicants as statewide rental assistance funds dry up.

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