Oregon rent assistance lag fuels ‘frustration beyond words’

Oregon

OHCS Director Margaret Salazar says there has been some improvement in getting out the first round of funds

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The director of Oregon Housing and Community Services said Thursday the state estimates it will take between six and nine weeks to finish delivering the first round of rental assistance.

Last week, Oregon estimated it would take nine to 13 weeks to clear the backlog of applications for rental assistance.

Many tenants are getting desperate for funding. Michael Bouchard rents a space for his trailer in Salem and said the application process for rental assistance was frustrating and confusing. He said his application was finally approved on Aug. 9 but he still hadn’t received funding more than a month later.

“This would’ve helped but it’s been more stress and very much disappointment — frustration beyond words,” Bouchard said.

OHCS Director Margaret Salazar said the state’s timeline on getting the first round of money out to people has improved. She said situations like Bouchard’s “should not be happening and it’s really unfortunate.”

“We’re trying to run this federal program with folks using their local process and in some cases, it’s faster than others, which is not helpful if you’re the person that’s waiting for your check and it’s been 32 days,” Salazar said.

The software system used by OHCS has been plagued by problems. But at this point, officials say switching to a different system would slow the process even more. Oregon is also working to make the application process easier but there’s only so much that can be done due to federal requirements that must be met.

Adding to the slog is the fact that a person’s application for rental assistance is sent to one of 18 different community action agencies for processing and payment. KOIN 6 News learned officials are working on a more centralized system. Salazar said other states that have done so have been able to get money out the door faster.

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