PORTLAND - Oregon has paid out less than half of the money it set aside for landlords through a state rent assistance fund approved by lawmakers last December.

As of Aug. 11, landlords had received $55.6 million from the state through the Landlord Compensation Fund to cover the missed rent of tenants who have struggled to keep up with payments during the pandemic.

That is roughly 46% of the $121 million the state has committed.

Connor McDonnell, a spokesperson for Oregon Housing and Community Services, the state agency overseeing the fund, said public housing authorities are now processing payments within 1 to 2 months and the state expects the money to be paid out by the end of September. By paying landlords, the state hopes to keep renters impacted by the economic and public health crisis in their homes.

However, the fund was plagued by technical issues and delays after state lawmakers allocated $150 million to it in December.

Applications for the first round of funding opened in February, but landlords immediately ran into software issues applying for funding. Oregon paid $353,765 to software vendor Allita 360 to implement a centralized application system for the program.

The software issues, which prevented landlords from uploading required documentation, led to processing delays for the fund’s first round and caused the state to push back the program’s second and third rounds of funding.

Nearly all of the first round funding has now been paid out, but only 61% of second round funding and 15% of third round funding has been distributed, according to the state. Applications for the third round of funding closed June 23.

Those funds will cover 80% of past-due rent. State lawmakers have also agreed to pay the remaining 20%, but those payments won’t start until later this year.

While the Landlord Compensation Fund was seeded with state money, the state’s $204 million Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which opened in May, is federally funded and applications for that program can be initiated by tenants to cover past-due rent and up to three months of future rent.

The state paid another $395,482 to the same software vendor, Allita 360, to implement a separate application system for that rent assistance program. But that system, too, has been plagued by software problems, and the state has similarly had issues getting the money out the door.

Nearly 26,000 Oregon households have requested a total of $185 million in rent and utility assistance through the program. Less than 9% of those applications had been processed as of Monday, with only $13.4 million distributed to 2,232 households. However, the state has picked up its pace over the last several weeks.

Oregon renters have until Feb. 28, 2022, to repay overdue rent accumulated between April 2020 and June 2021. Renters who are continuing to struggle to pay their bills are protected from eviction for 60 days after they apply for rent assistance and notify their landlords. Multnomah County approved a 30-day extension to those protections last month for a total of 90 days.

NOTE: This story is published with the permission as part of a collaborative of news organizations in Oregon sharing news content. Salem Reporter is part of the arrangement.

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