That’s where the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program comes into her story. Earlier this year, the Phoenix City Council approved spending $51 million dollars in Federal ERA funds to assist families. This family is one of more than 3,100 Phoenix households so far to receive assistance. This mom and her children received $12,000 to cover owed rent and another $3,000 for unpaid utilities. The city has disbursed nearly $24 million dollars, more money than any other jurisdiction in Arizona.
As the federal ban on some evictions is set to expire Saturday, the city is moving at a faster pace to get assistance into the hands of those Phoenix families who need it most.
City staff managing the ERA program helped 59% more people last week than they did during weekly average in April. The average financial assistance per household is $7,500.
In addition to the $24 million of ERA funds given to Phoenix families, nearly $15 million more in rent and utility assistance from other programs has gone to Phoenix residents during the pandemic, pushing the total help to nearly $40 million dollars.
“We know the need is great and that’s why the Mayor and City Council expect us to take steps to process applications faster,” said Gina Montes, Deputy City Manager. Under the direction of Montes and the City’s Human Services Department, the city is working to add additional hours of operation, more staffing and auditing processes so applications can be approved more quickly.
There are two options for applying for assistance. The city has partnered with the non-profit Wildfire to double the number of families who can be helped. Wildfire is using an online portal to allow residents to do the paperwork over the internet, however due to high demand, the portal is not currently taking new applications. Wildfire is processing the more than 2,000 applications they currently have and expect to reopen the portal again in August.
The city is arranging appointments and working with individuals over the phone to meet the stringent requirements mandated by the Federal government. Residents should call 602-534-AIDE (2433) on Monday’s beginning at 8 a.m. to schedule a telephone appointment.
Human Services Director Marchelle Franklin recounts a story one her staff members told her about a call he made to a resident who had lost his job and got behind on his rent. “When our employee told the man the City would be able to pay his past-due rent, the man said ‘this has lifted a weight off my shoulders. Thank you, thank you thank you’,” Franklin said. “The man told my employee this was like having a four-leaf clover, a rabbit’s foot and other lucky items all at once.”