YORK (AP) — Maine's state housing authority has halted new applications for emergency rental assistance while it waits to find out if a request for more federal money will be approved.
MaineHousing said in a statement that an "unanticipated uptick in demand" and uncertainty about new revenue prompted the decision to pause applications. The program started in March 2021 and stopped taking applications at the end of the day on Sept. 29.
The housing authority described the program as a temporary support that is funded via federal money through COVID-19 relief laws. The authority said the pause will allow more than 11,000 pending requests to be processed.
The program has helped more than 33,000 households and spent more than $275 million, MaineHousing officials said. The program is mostly used to pay rent directly to landlords.
MaineHousing spokesperson Scott Thistle said the pause in applications is "a fiscally responsible and reasonable move that will allow us to ensure all who have already applied to this program get a fair opportunity to receive help."
Dreams come true: Kennebunkport Heritage Housing Trust making homes 'attainable'
The agency's staff notified key entities of its decision including the office of Gov. Janet Mills, legislative leaders and the 10 community action agencies across Maine that have worked to help administer this program.
Maine was among the first states to open its Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program under the federal relief laws. Those who have been helped by the program include more than 25,800 children and 7,893 older Mainers.
MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan said the painful decision to pause the program was based on concern demand on the program would exceed available funding.
"This temporary program, funded with one-time money from Congress, was meant as an emergency measure to help abate the economic backlash wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic in Maine," said Thistle. "It was not intended to be a long-term bandage, a permanent source of rental assistance or a solution to the state's ongoing affordable housing crisis. Simple math tells us that without replenishment this program cannot run indefinitely."
MaineHousing's decision to pause accepting new applicants to the program puts the state among dozens of others who have paused or ended their ERA programs including New York, California, Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Maine pauses rental assistance program launched in pandemic