More than $500M of rental assistance yet to be disbursed as eviction moratorium ends

Posted at 11:36 PM, Aug 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 05:26:27-04

(WXYZ) — In March, months before the moratorium ended, the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance program (CERA) launched in Michigan to help renters pay back-rent and avoid eviction.

As of late last week, more than half of those who applied to the program are still waiting for their application to be processed and more than $500 million is still left to be distributed.

Statewide, there have been more than 50,000 applications to this program and roughly 27% of them come from the City of Detroit.

“Nobody speaks about the landlord, but the landlord has got to pay his bills,” said George Paige, who has been a landlord for 20 years in Detroit.

For months, Paige has been paying for the taxes, utilities, and mortgage payments on his properties without payment from those who live there.

“We have bills we have to pay as well," Paige said. "So we have to use our money to pay for these tenants that are in our homes. We’re taking care of them.”

Right now, Paige says he’s owed $20,000 in back-rent from a handful of tenants who aren’t paying. He says some are taking advantage, but those that truly need help aren’t getting it.

"There are some people who definitely have a hardship situation who need the help," Paige said. "My tenants are thinking their bill is going to get paid and it’s not.”

He's been telling his tenants to apply for CERA. Since it began in March, the program was given more than $600 million to help those struggling with rent. So far, more than $500 million of that money has yet to be distributed as more than 30,000 applicants are still waiting to be processed.

"This is not fair," Paige said. It’s not fair for me and it’s not fair for the tenant. You guys said you have money to pay for these people's rent, then what’s the problem?”

"This is a program that came together really quickly,” said Micheal Centi, the Director of Integration for Wayne Metro. “This has been a continuous quality improvement effort the whole way through.”

Wayne Metro is one of many local organizations tasked with processing these applications. Due to the high volume, Wayne Metro doubled the number of staff assigned to the program from 90 people to 180 people. They're still looking to hire 30 more people but like many others, are facing a worker shortage.

There's a heightened sense of urgency now that the moratorium has been lifted.

"We’re moving at a faster rate than we probably ever have before to respond to this national emergency," Centi said. "We’re playing triage every day.”

In Detroit specifically, more than 10,000 applicants are still waiting for their applications to be approved with more than $100 million still available, according to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

With the moratorium now over, Centi says those facing eviction are moved to the front of the line.

“Anyone that currently has a court date please make sure we know that," Centi said. “We're working in very close coordination with the court system to make sure they know 'this is a CERA applicant.'"

"Evictions rarely happen for folks who have applied for CERA assistance,” he added.

Centi estimates all the money will be distributed by December, and on average it’s taking 30-60 days to process applications.

As for Paige, he’s holding on for as long as he can, but the eviction process for some of his tenants is already underway.

“We don't have money to keep taking care of people and their families, it’s as simple as that,” Paige said. “If you extend it (moratorium) any further then it just brings more hardship to the landlord.”

You can find more information about CERA HERE.

If you live in Detroit, Highland Park, or Hamtramck, call Wayne Metro at 866-313-2520.

If you live elsewhere in Wayne County, call (734) 284-6999.

For Oakland County, call 888-441-1742.

For Macomb County, call (586) 213-5757

MSHDA is also working with local partners across the state to distribute the funds. To find the appropriate agency based on your county, click HERE.