Officials: $3M in returned funds won’t affect COVID rental help in W.Va.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - West Virginia recently returned $3.3 million in COVID relief funds. The money was meant to help with rental assistance and other items, but officials said plenty of money remains on hand.
The West Virginia Housing Development Fund, which manages the Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program, has spent $46 million in rental and utility assistance to help about 13,000 residents, all impacted by financial hardship associated with COVID-19. The relief has stopped evictions, kept elderly folks in their home and turned on the water for families with newborn babies.
“COVID put a lot of people in that situation that had never been in that situation before,” said Erica Boggess, executive director for the W.Va. Housing Development Fund. “They had never faced those kinds of difficulties.”
But, an enormous amount of federal assistance remains unspent. That is why the U.S. Treasury recently took $3.3 million from West Virginia and gave it to other states in need.
“Some states got proportionally more than they needed, and many states states got proportionally less than they needed,” Boggess said. “I believe looking at our population, looking at the fact that we have more home ownership then renters, I do believe we got more than we needed.”
West Virginia is not alone, according to information released by the U.S. Treasury Department.
Ohio returned nearly $3.7 million.
Smaller states returned even more. The Treasury recouped $21.6 million from South Dakota and $33.1 million from Idaho.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all,” said Jennifer Schwartz, director of tax and housing advocacy for the National Council of State Housing Agencies. “I think this is completely normal and how Congress expected this to work.”
West Virginia has another $3.3 million in benefits ready to be paid out soon to approved recipients. The Housing Development Fund also has revamped its application portal, added additional processors and contracted with outside help to move applications faster.
Those improvements are working, but Boggess still anticipates more money will be recouped.
“Even if every single application were funded, West Virginia would still not meet the spending ratios that Treasury is requiring,” she said.
Those interviewed said nobody is to blame.
“I mean it comes back to need,” Boggess explained. “If we fund every single application that we have and we don’t spend all the money, then clearly we’ve met the need.”
She encouraged anyone who has been on the fence, wondering if they would be eligible for assistance, to apply for the Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program.
Those interested should visit the West Virginia Housing Development Fund’s website or call (866) 623-6284. There visitors will find information to determine if their family is eligible.
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