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NC's HOPE Program Hires More Staff To Process 'Astounding' Number Of Applications

More than 130 new staff members have been hired by North Carolina's Office of Recovery and Resiliency to help process an overwhelming number of applications for rent and utility assistance through the state's HOPE program.

The hires were made in November and were first reported by the Charlotte Business Journal. The extra staff was needed to help process applications from more than 42,000 households — a number that took the program's leaders by surprise.

"We were expecting a large demand for this program, but getting over 42,000 eligible applications in a three week period was really quite astounding," said Haley Pfeiffer Haynes with the state Office of Recovery and Resiliency. "We just needed to make sure that we could process these applications in a timely way that could really serve people."

So far, Pfeiffer Haynes said the office had approved about 11,100 households for assistance, and about half of them — or 5,500 households — had received their assistance as of Saturday, Dec. 19.

She also said her office was planning to make some changes to the program in response to a small percentage of landlords who've refused to accept the rental assistance. She says some landlords have refused the assistance because it prevents them from evicting a tenant for nonpayment of rent for 90 days after the HOPE funding runs out, or until the end of the lease.

"We do have a 94% acceptance rate by landlords," Pfeiffer Haynes said. "We really haven't had many landlords turning us down, but we want to assist everyone, so we are going to be announcing an adjustment to that period."

She declined to say by how much the period could be shortened but said more details would be announced in the coming days.

The state has $164.9 million in federal CARES Act funding for the HOPE program. That includes $51.4 million from the HUD Community Development Block Grant Program and $113.5 million from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Pfeiffer Haynes said all of the money has been committed to the HOPE program, and that payments will continue to go out in the new year.

Copyright 2021 WFAE. To see more, visit WFAE.

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