Tenants approved for rental assistance still waiting for money months later

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The North Carolina Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions Program (HOPE) was established to help struggling tenants pay rent and utilities during the pandemic, but months after being approved for assistance, some tenants are still waiting for the money.

Doreka Hamilton applied for the program and was approved by the state for more than $9,500 in January. More than two months later, Hamilton said the state had yet to pay her landlord.

“I left it all in their hands and they just failed me, so I’m just here, lost, hopeless,” she told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke.

Other renters have contacted Stoogenke with similar stories. Jennifer Weinstock and another viewer said they were approved in December, but they’re still waiting for the money, too.

Stoogenke reached out to state officials and was told several changes had been made to help speed up the process. Some of the changes included hiring more employees to help process claims instead of using an outside vendor and launching a web portal so renters could upload crucial documents faster.

On Wednesday, the state agency which runs the HOPE Program, the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, emailed Stoogenke the following:

“The HOPE Program continues to issue payments to landlords and utility companies as quickly as possible. In some instances, payments may be slowed down by the ongoing U.S. Postal Service delays or technical issues with a bank account transfer. Applicants who have concerns about an award are encouraged to contact their assigned HOPE Program specialist so the issue can be resolved. If an applicant needs contact information for the assigned specialist, they should call 2-1-1 for assistance.

“To date, the HOPE Program has awarded $140 million through 57,699 rent and utility awards to help 36,951 households struggling financially due to the pandemic. Of this amount, more than $108 million has already been paid directly to landlords and utility companies across the state.

“We cannot discuss the specifics of an applicant’s case due to PII laws. However, with respect to the three applicant names you forwarded, we can tell you that payments were made to two of the landlords earlier this month. Our program specialists are contacting the landlords today to make sure they are aware of this. Payment for the third applicant has already been issued and is en route to the landlord through an electronic transfer of funds.”

>> See our county-by-county resource guide for rental, mortgage and utility assistance