‘People need help,’ Clark County pandemic rent assistance program slims access to help ahead of possible evictions increase

‘People need help,’ Clark County pandemic rent assistance program slims access to help ahead of possible evictions increase

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Tens of thousands of southern Nevadans avoided eviction throughout the pandemic thanks to an emergency Clark County program that covered rent. Now, that assistance is changing for some and disappearing for others.

Tenants frequently refer to it as CHAP, or the CARES Housing Assistance Program. Clark County Human Resources Administrator Tim Burch said since its inception two years ago, over $375 million provided rental assistance to roughly 70,000 local households and utility assistance to 60,000 households as the COVID-19 pandemic altered life as it was once known.

But now, that money is running out. Burch said only enough is left to address those who submitted an application by the deadline, Sunday night.

“Rather than just being behind on your rent, you have to be facing eviction,” Burch said during a virtual interview Monday afternoon. “Those are one-time, 60-to-90-day kind of late payment remedies, with referrals to get folks into programs to help them be more independent long term. But these aren’t long-term entitlements meant to carry folks for years.”

The program is not completely disappearing, but changing who is eligible for it. Burch listed these as:

  • At least one member of a household is living on a fixed income (e.g., Social Security, VA benefits, or pensions).
  • Have experienced a rent increase within the 12-month period prior to the date of application.
  • Received an eviction notice for non-payment of rent.
  • Experienced a recent change in circumstances that has resulted in an inability to pay rent.

The program largely targeted low-income households in the state with the highest unemployment rate nationwide. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Nevada faces a shortfall of roughly 80,000 affordable housing units.

Now, thousands who do not meet the new criteria are shuffling through the Civil Law Self-Help Center in the Clark County Regional Justice Center to figure out what’s next.

Latonia Stephens, for one, emerged from the center in tears Monday morning.

“Basically, they just told me they’re going to put the little eviction thing on the door on Wednesday,” Stephens said outside the center.

The North Las Vegas resident said she lost her casino cooking job in 2020 due to the pandemic. For months, she’s utilized CHAP to help keep the lights on and pay rent.

Now, while recovering from a hysterectomy and a car crash, she no longer qualifies.

“It’s not just for me, it’s for everybody. People need help. People need assistance. They look to this to help them,” Stephens said. “I just had surgery and I had to come down here to do all this.”

Burch added Nevada’s eviction process is different than other states in that the eviction does not reach the courts until the tenant submits the first response to it. Basically, “we don’t really know how many eviction notices are being handed out every day in our community.”

When 8 News Now asked if an increase in evictions is expected following these changes, Burch said “with the lack of data points to how many evictions are actually happening in our community, it’s hard to say if there will be an increase or decrease.”

Burch, instead, said people who either no longer or are unsure if they qualify should continue to contact the Civil Law Self-Help Center or call 2-1-1. He said several rent and utility assistance programs from before the pandemic are in still in place that can provide similar relief.

The Civil Law Self-Help Center is located at the Regional Justice Center at 200 Lewis Ave. It is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Alternatives to the program and other information can be found here.

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