13 Investigates

Actions

Clark County rent assistance program recognized by feds

8,000 applications still pending
mark photo.jpg
Posted at 6:40 AM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 09:59:01-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Thousands in Las Vegas are at risk of losing their homes when the CDC's most recent moratorium on evictions expires Oct. 3.

The CARES Housing Assistance Program or CHAP is supposed to help many of them, preventing an eviction crisis.

13 Investigates is checking the status on how well that money's being distributed locally.

Congress has pumped out over $45 billion dollars into emergency rent assistance. But only a fraction of that money, about $3 billion, had been distributed across the country by June, according to the US Treasury Department. That prompted the White House to demand that states get the money out faster.

In Las Vegas, renters and landlords alike are on edge.

"I'm concerned because if I'm homeless, I'm pretty much going to die because my insulin is only going to stay good for just so long," says Mark Remling.

Mark says he's never been late on rent at the house he's lived in for nearly 10 years. But due to COVID restrictions and previous lockdown closures, Mark is behind for the first time. And he's not alone.

He's among hundreds of artists and crafts people facing tough times in Las Vegas.

"I did this one first -- the Rat Pack " Mark says as he shows us one of his works of art. "They just looked like they were having such a great time and I just figured, you know what? I got to do this painting. I just love this! When I look at it, it makes me laugh."

But there's not much room for laughter when you're looking at an eviction notice.

"It's basically saying, you know, pay what you owe plus fees," says Mark. "And if you don't pay, you will be evicted on this day."

Like so many others in the industry in Las Vegas, Mark's livelihood seemingly vanished.

"All of a sudden, COVID hit and no more tourism. No more gallery sales. You know, I live off of tourism."

As the last hope to stay afloat until the tourism market picks up and people start snatching up works of art again, Mark applied for CHAP in March.

"It still to this day says, 'waiting to be assigned a caseworker.'"

We questioned Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick about the backlog.

She said at first there was a major gap when the initial round of rental assistance funds ran out last December. Congress had to pass another bill for round two.

"And then it wasn't until late March that we got the new Treasury guidance, and so we didn't get any new dollars," Kirkpatrick explains. "And that is why so many people had to re-apply."

Just how long should renters and landlords expect to wait?

"I can tell you that today, we're working on the last week of April. So all applications that came in during the last week of April are being processed," says Kirkpatrick. "It's taking a minimum of eight weeks as long as everybody has all of their documentation in."

But renters who have an eviction case are being expedited.

Kirkpatrick also explained that some of the delays is making sure money is not going to fraudsters.

"And we really have to do our due diligence to ensure the right people are getting the right dollars."

But she emphasizes that it also boils down to sheer volume -- tens of thousands of applications.

The backlog was over 15,000 earlier this year. There are about 8,000 pending applications now.

"And I can tell you about 8,000 seems like a lot today," says Kirkpatrick. "But imagine, in December alone, we took in 30,000 applications."

To handle that, they've added about 250 temporary employees, so the program has 400 staffers now processing 800 to 1,000 applications per week.

Kirkpatrick says Clark County stands out as a success as the program was awarded recognition by the Department of Treasury.

"They actually included Clark County in the Treasury guidance," Kirkpatrick says.

Here's the bigger picture by the numbers.

According to the Governor, Nevada got $360 million from the feds for rental assistance. Most of that, about $305.4 million, going to Clark County.

As of this month, county officials reported that $167 million had been distributed since July 2020, helping over 29,500 households pay rent and utilities. That's a little more than half of the county's full allocation.

At a May 20, 2021 press conference, when the Eviction Prevention Program was announced, officials said about 400 households had gotten rental assistance totaling about $3 million dollars in 2021.

13 Investigates has been tracking the program's progress. As of Aug. 8, the numbers are up to just over 6,000 households that received rental and utility assistance in 2021, since new funding became available, for a combined distribution of over $41 million dollars.

While we're hearing from many renters like Mark who applied for CHAP and remain in limbo, Kirkpatrick says Clark County is getting the money out much faster than many other communities.

"We've moved 50% of our money since March. And I think that says something."

Kirkpatrick says Clark County is well on the way to hit the target, set by US Treasury, to have 65% of certain funds distributed by the end of September.

The County says it has more than $130 million federal dollars left, which should help another 38,000 households.

Mark hopes he's one of them.

"I'm a good tenant! And, you know, because of this...it's ruining my reputation and my credit, my...everything! Because of all of this, you know, it's... it's destroying, I'm sure, millions of people."

For the thousands in Las Vegas, we asked Commissioner Kirkpatrick if there's enough money for everyone who needs it.

"Absolutely!" she says. "There's plenty of money and we have additional and different dollars if we should need them."

That should provide some hope for people like Mark who don't know what the future holds as they wait for help.

Of course, it takes money to push the money out the door. Kirkpatrick says the county spent $4 million to build a new IT system. $13.5 million has been used for recruiting and paying the temporary staff. And another $300,000 was used for community outreach and miscellaneous expenses.

Click here to see how the Treasury Department recognized Clark County's program.

And we can't stress this message enough: Even though there's another pause on evictions, that only prevents actual lock-outs. Landlords can still file eviction paperwork and renters must formally respond to those evictions by filing an answer with the court.

Click here to go to the Clark County CHAP page.

13 Investigates - Send us a tip
Do you have a story idea or tip for 13 Investigates? Fill out the form below.
Are you willing to go on camera?

HOW TO WATCH