Indiana adding $15 million to pandemic rental assistance program

The state is adding $15 million to its COVID-19-related rental assistance program after already receiving 24,000 applications, more than double the program’s expected capacity.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday announced that the $15 million would be added to the existing $25 million fund intended to assist Hoosiers who are behind on rent because of pandemic-related job losses or income reductions. The announcement comes one week after Holcomb said he’d be willing to add more money to the pot.

To date, more than 24,000 Hoosiers have submitted an application seeking rental assistance through the program, which launched July 13. The program receives about 400 new applications a day.

The $25 million initially set aside for the program was expected to be enough to cover only about 12,000 households, and advocates have warned the funding wouldn’t go far enough to avoid a wave of evictions when moratoriums are lifted.

On Wednesday, the governor indicated that he would not extend the existing moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, which has been in place since March, beyond Aug. 14. He highlighted programs that could help Hoosiers who have fallen behind avoid losing their home.

“Here’s the most important thing: We do have programs and funding and resources to help residents who are in need,” he said. “I want that to be crystal clear, if you are in need, we are here. As a matter of fact, we’re constantly urging Hoosiers to work with their banks, to work with their landlords to set up these payment plans as we go forward.”

Jacob Sipes, executive director of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, said landlords began receiving payments this week for rental assistance applications that have already been processed. The program is still accepting applications.

The counties submitting the most applications are Lake, St. Joseph, Allen, Tippecanoe and Vanderburgh, which together represent more than 11,000, or 45%, of the applications. Marion County residents are not eligible for the state program because the city received its own share of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds and launched its own rental assistance program.

The state also announced that a program is currently being developed to help tenants and landlords reach agreements in eviction lawsuits by using a third-party facilitator rather than the court.

The program, which is still being developed by the Indiana Office of Judicial Administration, will be available statewide at no cost to tenants.

The goal of the program is to preserve housing stability. If an agreement is reached between a landlord and tenant, there won’t be any further court action against the tenant. That’s important because an eviction can affect a person’s ability to rent housing for years.

The program will be similar to one that already exists for homeowners and mortgage lenders. It will be funded by the Indiana Supreme Court, the state (through CARES Act funding) and the Indiana Bar Foundation.

More details on the program are expected to be released soon.

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