Only a small fraction of struggling Louisiana renters have received rental assistance

More than 146,000 households say they are behind on rent

By: - October 12, 2021 12:00 pm

Louisiana has received more than $500 million in federal money to help struggling renters. (Photo by Stephen Zenner/Getty Images)

Although more than 146,000 Louisiana renters reported being behind on their rent as the pandemic drags on, just a fraction have actually gotten help from Louisiana’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

As of Thursday, the state has paid out $42 million for 7,800 households struggling to pay their rent, according to Desiree Honore Thomas, assistant commissioner of administration for the Louisiana Division of Administration. Meanwhile, local governments have paid out $70 million between 15,000 households.

“We’re working to stabilize housing during this public health emergency,” Thomas said.

However, the payouts so far don’t come close to addressing the state’s overwhelming rental assistance needs.

As of Sept. 27, about 146,000 Louisiana renters reported being behind on rental payments. About about 76,000 renters reported having “no confidence” in making next month’s rent and about 113,000 more renters had only “slight confidence,” according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey Data.  

“Hundreds of thousands of Louisiana renters and landlords are still waiting on state and local governments to fulfill their obligation to administer emergency rental assistance,” said Maxwell Ciardullo, director of policy and communications at the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center. “The majority of those renters are in storm-impacted parishes.”

The statewide rental assistance program began in early March after Louisiana was allocated $309 million as part of a December 2020 COVID-19 relief package to assist struggling renters and landlords. Louisiana received an additional $244 million in rental assistance from the American Rescue Act earlier this year.

In August, Thomas said one of the reasons rental assistance payouts were slow was because few renters actually applied for the program due to federal programs that protected them, such as the Centers for Disease Control’s eviction moratorium and additional unemployment benefits from the federal government. Both have since expired.

Since then, Thomas said she’s noticed about a 25 percent increase in rental assistance applications.

Still, only about 90,000 renters and landlords statewide have applied for rental assistance so far.

As of last Thursday, only 41,000 renters had started the application for the state’s emergency rental assistance program and 15,000 of those applications were completed and submitted, Thomas said. The rest are being processed or were missing information. Those applicants have been or will be contacted to complete the required information.

The statewide rental assistance program covers residents in all but seven parishes across Louisiana. Renters and landlords in Caddo, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Lafayette, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes have to apply for help locally because those parishes administer rental assistance programs separate from the state’s.

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.