Hawaii Rent Assistance Program In Gridlock, Few Helped Thus Far

Oct 20, 2020

As the number of Hawaii residents behind on rent climbs, a much-touted state program to help out-of-work residents cover their rent appears to be failing.

Gov. David Ige unveiled the Rent Relief and Housing Assistance Program more than a month ago.

Using $100 million from the federal government, qualified renters are supposed to be eligible for up to $2,000 per month on Oahu and $1,500 on all other islands.

But so far, very little of that money has actually reached people in need.

Nearly 20,000 applications have been submitted, with just 1,600 approved.

The program has become so backlogged that the two nonprofit organizations contracted to distribute the funds, Aloha United Way and Catholic Charities Hawaii, have stopped taking applications.

They declined to comment when contacted by HPR and instead directed inquires to the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp., the state agency overseeing the program.

A survey conducted by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization in August found that 11,000 local households were behind on rent. For many, financial conditions have only worsened since.

If the assistance funds don’t reach renters soon, they may never get there at all.

Congress specified that the money must be spent by the end of year or it will be returned to the U.S. treasury.

The governor has said that any unspent funds will be placed into the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund.