Oregon hires contractor to tackle rent assistance backlog


Oregon has hired an outside contractor to handle rent assistance applications as the state tries to overcome an alarming backlog of applications and prevent a wave of evictions in the months to come.

Oregon Housing and Community Services announced Thursday that it has hired Public Partnerships LLC to process between 7,000 and 8,500 rental assistance applications in the Portland metropolitan area, which has seen the lion’s share of applications under the program. Oregon’s federally funded emergency rental aid of $ 204 million. . The state agency said the company would immediately begin processing the requests.

The company will receive a flat rate of $ 175 per application processed, which would represent between $ 1.2 million and $ 1.5 million for the targets announced by the national housing agency.

Public Partnerships LLC primarily serves as an intermediary for home health services, but has recently expanded to administer COVID-19 relief efforts for state and local governments.

The contract comes as the state struggles to secure cash for tenants due to issues with a new software system, as well as an unprecedented need for assistance.

More than 25,000 Oregon households have requested more than $ 183 million in rent and utility assistance through the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program since applications opened in May. As of Wednesday, only about 5% of those claims had been processed, with 1,290 households receiving a total of just about $ 8 million.

Social service organizations responsible for providing rental assistance say the state’s new software system has been flawed and inefficient, slowing their ability to process claims. Oregon paid software vendor Allita 360 $ 395,482 to implement a centralized applications system this spring, hoping the new system would streamline the application process by channeling tenants to a single application portal, rather than forcing them to seek help through nonprofits and community organizations across the state. .

Margaret Salazar, executive director of Oregon Housing and Community Services, said the agency may ditch Allita and implement new software to distribute a new $ 156 million fundraising round this fall, but that it is ‘would stick with the software system until she had dispensed the initial round.

The rent assistance backlog could have devastating consequences for tenants and possibly cost Oregon millions.

Tenants in Oregon are protected from eviction for 60 days after they apply for rental assistance and notify their landlords, but those tenants could be evicted if their requests for rental assistance are not processed within 60 days. These protections last 90 days in Multnomah County.

According to federal guidelines, Oregon must spend 65% of its $ 204 million in federal funding by the end of September or risk having the remaining funds redistributed to other states.

– Jamie Goldberg; [email protected]; @jamiebgoldberg

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