Whenever a new program like when renters need money to pay their rent, however well-intended, is rolled out fast, there will be problems. I was concerned that in many of our rural communities, people had to drive an hour to reach one of the few participating banks. I was concerned that people needing the money the most would be least able to make those trips. Banks were not “means testing” which is to say that anyone claiming financial hardship got a check and not just people with dire hardships. Smaller banks were taking appointments while larger banks allowed applicants to line up. I was worried money would run out before appointments could be held. And finally, I worried that those larger banks were in our larger cities and would process more applicants more quickly.
Early on I reached out to the legislative office managing this program and asked them to hold back funds for people with appointments. I asked the project not operate on weekends since smaller banks tend to be closed on weekends. I asked about distribution patterns and was told on the first day, 60% of the funds were disbursed outside the metropolitan area.
Thirty-five million dollars has now been distributed to 70,000 Oregon claimants. If you have an appointment, you can still get a check. If you don’t have an appointment, you have waited too long. I’ll be looking at the details of this distribution program to see how well it worked in rural and coastal communities and how we can do better if there is a next time.
Again, appointments for these funds through August 31 will be honored. If your appointment is scheduled for September, please call the financial institution you applied through to verify.
If you need assistance, there are several options available:
- NEED HELP PAYING RENT? The Legislature has allocated over $40 million to help individuals who are struggling to pay rent due to the financial impact of COVID-19. Funds are distributed by local community action partners (CAP). You can learn more about eligibility by calling 211 or visiting www.caporegon.org/find-services/ to find the nearest CAP.
- NEED HELP PAYING UTILITIES? Your local CAP may also be able to help. Please see: www.caporegon.org/find-services/ Many utility companies are waiving late fees, suspending disconnections, and making payment plans available. Please see https://www.oregon.gov/puc/Documents/OregonEnergyAssistance.pdf for information about what your specific gas, electricity, internet, or telephone company may offer.
- NEED HELP PAYING YOUR MORTGAGE? The Oregon Legislature has released $30 million in mortgage assistance. If you need or anticipate needing mortgage assistance, please sign up for Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) updates at https://www.oregon.gov/ohcs/about-us/Pages/news-updates.aspx. You can also contact OHCS at (503) 986-2000. You may also be eligible for foreclosure protection through September 30th under legislation passed by the Oregon Legislature.
- NEED ADDITIONAL ASSISTANCE? Dial 2-1-1 or visit 211info.org for additional information about COVID-19 test sites, eviction and foreclosure prevention information, how to access free food services, and more.