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Tucson, Pima County could be eligible to receive extra eviction prevention funds
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Tucson, Pima County could be eligible to receive extra eviction prevention funds

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An eviction notice is taped to an apartment window. After meeting spending deadlines, Pima County and the city of Tucson may be eligible to receive additional federal funds to keep people in their homes.

Pima County and the city of Tucson’s joint Eviction Prevention Program may be eligible to receive additional funds after meeting federal spending deadlines a month early, according to city and county officials.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury is expected to provide the extra money to high-need areas as part of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, or ERA, a COVID-19 relief initiative that allocated about $25 billion to state and local governments earlier this year. The rental assistance statute requires grantees to use at least 65% of their funding by Sept. 30 or risk having the unused money redistributed to “effective programs” that meet the deadline.

The city and county have already met the spending criteria to receive the redistributed funds, which could provide further housing and utility assistance to residents impacted by the pandemic. The joint county-city Eviction Prevention Program has dispensed more than 70% of its original $31.9 million federal grant and is on track to spend all of it within the next two months, officials from both the county and city said.

“This is an amazing partnership that the city of Tucson and Pima County, as well as our nonprofit partners, have helped contribute to. It really is. It should be a model for the rest of the state as to how we’re doing it here,” Mayor Regina Romero said.

Local officials won’t know how much extra rental assistance money they will receive — or when they will receive it — until after the Sept. 30 deadline when excess funds are recaptured by the Treasury.

Federal data from July show less than a quarter of the rental assistance funding has been spent nationally, suggesting that a significant amount of money might be up for grabs as state and local governments fail to meet their spending quotas.

“We’re going to wait to see what they give us. We’re going to keep utilizing all the funding and tools that we have to help those people who we can help,” said Liz Morales, the Housing and Community Development director for Tucson. “We’re ready and willing to spend funding if they give it to us because we know we have the need.”

More than 5,100 Tucson and Pima County residents have housing or utility assistance cases pending. Morales said about $29 million will be used to fulfill those requests, and that new applications are being submitted daily.

Requests for assistance may also grow as families face eviction proceedings following the Aug. 26 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down the moratorium on evictions.

Officials said the Eviction Protection Program has funds available to meet the current need, including part of the $32.9 million awarded to the city and county through a second round of ERA funding enacted in March.

They have also requested that the Arizona Department of Economic Security provide an additional $22 million dollars from the state’s federal rental assistance allocations.

“For the first time in my career there’s an adequate amount of resources,” said Daniel Sullivan, the director of Pima County’s Department of Community and Workforce Development. “It’s good to actually, for once, have the appropriate level of resources to solve a critical problem in our community.”

Sam Kmack covers local government for the Star. Contact him at skmack@tucson.com


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