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Following huge response, city temporarily closes rent relief program to new applications

Updated: Apr. 5, 2021 at 5:14 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hours after announcing a $114 million rent and utility relief program Monday, the city had to stop accepting new applications because of a huge response.

The city said it received 8,000 applications for the program from noon to 4 p.m.

To prevent processing delays, the city had said it would be accepting 8,000 new applications for the program at a time, then temporarily close it so that nonprofits handling submissions could catch up.

The application portal for the Rental and Utility Relief Program is at oneoahu.org/renthelp.

Qualifying households can get:

  • Up to $2,500 a month for back due rent and utility
  • Up to $2,000 a month for future rent payments
  • Up to $500 a month for future electric, water and sewer and gas bills
  • Up to 12 months of total support is available

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi says the program, which is funded by the federal government, will go a long way to supporting Oahu families who have been financially impacted by the pandemic.

“This is substantial and this is gonna throw into our community and our economy tens of millions of dollars, which is not insignificant,” Blangiardi said Monday, at a news conference.

“More than anything, it’s really gonna work to help those families most in need.”

City Office of Economic Revitalization Executive Director Amy Asselbaye said a number of changes have been made to this program to streamline applications and get money out to people more quickly.

”Up to 12 months of total support is available depending on that household’s situation and this program is designed to be flexible,” Asselbaye said. “It can pay bills going back to March 2020. It can pay current bills and it can pay future bills up to three months at a time.”

Under the program, payments will be made directly to a landlord or utility. Unlike the previous assistance campaign, landlords can also apply on behalf of their tenants.

Households who apply must meet income limits, show that their financial harm is due to the pandemic, and that at least one household member is at risk of losing their housing.

Residents who got relief through the city’s previous hardship program will need to reapply. That program hit a number of significant snags, and many applicants said they never got help.

The city is partnering with Catholic Charities Hawaii and the Council For Native Hawaiian Advancement for operational support in managing the program and processing applications.

“This emergency rental and utility program is meant to keep tenants in their homes, safely sheltered, while ensuring that landlords and utilities are properly compensated,” said CCH President and CEO Robert Van Tassell.

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