A simulated eviction notice.

Officials with a Baton Rouge rental assistance program say they don't have enough money to help the more than 3,000 people who have applied, as many struggle to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We've received an overwhelming amount of applications with very limited resources," said Carl Dillon, president and chief executive officer of the Urban Restoration Enhancement Corporation. "We're not sure how many we'll be able to serve, (but) it definitely won't be the entire 3,000."

It's a situation the state ran into back in July when, after opening up the application period for its COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, it had to temporarily shut it down four days later because it was inundated with applicants seeking help making their monthly rent payments. 

Dillon says UREC received approximately $180,000 from the city-parish's pool of federal grant funds from The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that Congress approved last year. UREC was one of five local agencies to which the city-parish funneled a total of nearly $900,000 for various rental and mortgage assistance programs. 

UREC's rental assistance program is geared toward individuals whose gross income is at or below 80% of the area's median income — for a single-person household, $44,000, for a two-person household, $50,250 — who have fallen at least 30 days behind on rent payments due to hardships related to the coronavirus. 

The program would provide emergency assistance — limited to $1,000 a month with a maximum of $2,000 per household — for up to six months of delinquency.

Elderly people, disabled individuals and families facing evictions are given priority, UREC officials said. 

That's Melinda Knighten doesn't understand why she still hasn't heard back from UREC since applying for her 78-year-old mother back in November. 

"She's elderly and has received an eviction notice, she should be going before other people," Knighten said. "We've done everything we're supposed to do a long time ago and still haven't heard whether they'll approve or deny her."

Knighten is worried her mother could be homeless if she doesn't get the financial help she needs by Jan. 31, when the federal moratorium against evictions expires.

She said her mother is on a fixed income and was working part time in home healthcare before the pandemic prevented her from working.  

"Her landlord is working with her, just waiting for (UREC) to verify her information," Knighten said. "She's behind three months."

Nearly all rental assistance programs prohibit applicants from submitting multiple applications to different agencies for financial support.   

Dillon said UREC is still processing applications and has started reaching out to applicants to let them know that's still an ongoing process. 

So far, they've awarded approximately $30,000 in rental assistance. Officials said only 35 of the 150 applications they've processed thus far have met the federal and city-parish requirements for funding. 

"There is some rental assistance money included in the relief bill Congress just passed but I don't know how those will get allocated," Dillon said.  

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