AUGUSTA, Maine — MaineHousing announced Friday that it is pausing its emergency rental assistance program and will not be accepting new or renewed applications.
Applications were no longer being accepted after 5 p.m. Sept. 29, according to a press release, and it is unclear how long the program will be paused or whether it will reopen. The agency is awaiting a response to its request for additional federal funding, according to the release.
The program started in March 2021 and was designed as a way to help people pay for rent and utilities during the pandemic, and was federally funded through COVID-19 relief laws.
According to the release, funds were expected to last through December of this year, but an "unexpected uptick in program demand over the last several weeks has accelerated the depletion of available funds."
More than 11,000 applications are currently pending, and the pause will allow MaineHousing and Maine's community action agencies time to process the requests, the release states.
In addition to the request for federal funding, the agency also reportedly notified Gov. Janet Mills, Maine legislative leaders, and the 10 community action agencies in Maine that have been working to help administer the program, according to the release.
"This 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," MaineHousing's Communications Director Scott Thistle said in the release. "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. 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."
The MaineHousing website directs people who may be facing eviction to contact Pine Tree Legal Assistance or Legal Services for the Elderly.