Time is ‘slipping away’ on millions of dollars in Mass. renters assistance

DEDHAM, Mass. — The head of the landlord trade association for Massachusetts is concerned thousands of renters could miss out on millions of dollars in financial aid.

“The chance to apply for this rental assistance is slipping away from us,” said Doug Quattrochi, Executive Director of MassLandlords.net.

Out of roughly $1 billion in federal and state aid, Massachusetts officials have only distributed $153 million to 29,377 households, according to the Dept. of Housing and Community Development dashboard.

According to Quattrochi, 65 percent of the $400 million allocated to Massachusetts in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 must be spent by Sept. 30 “to avoid United States Treasury clawback,” he said.

Likewise, 50 percent of the approximately $500 million allocated to Massachusetts from the American Rescue Plan Act must be spent by March 2022 to avoid going back to the federal government, Quattrochi said.

Quattrochi has been following the numbers for months and is worried the state’s application and approval process is too slow and complicated.

“We made the process so difficult, we’re so wrapped around the axel, worried about accidentally paying someone fraudulently, as a matter of fact we’ve failed to reward tens of thousands of households the assistance they would be entitled to, if only the could complete the paperwork,” Quattrochi said.

A spokesperson for the state Department of Housing and Community Development released the following statement to Boston 25 News:

“The Baker-Polito Administration is actively monitoring activity at the state and federal level and is confident that with the influx of federal funds, along with the program delivery adjustments made as part of the Eviction Diversion Initiative, that the state is well positioned to get emergency rental assistance out in a timely manner to those that need it most,” the statement said. “In anticipation of an increase in demand for rental assistance, DHCD and partners spent approximately nine months working to reduce paperwork, streamline the application process, implement technology upgrades, and provide better language access, to increase application processing capacity.”

Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, said he thinks the process “has gotten a lot better than it was three months ago.”

Draisen said the state has hired around 100 workers to process renter assistance applications.

“We think it’s getting much faster. It could always be better. We all know that. I think the state has a responsibility to make sure the people who are applying are truly eligible,” Draisen said.

Quattrochi said renters need to carefully fill out the application and call 211 if they need help.

“You’ve got to fill out every single box, even if you’re embarrassed or you’re worried the landlord will find out. You have to fill out every single box because any single blank will result in your application getting turned down,” Quattrochi said.

The state DHCD spokesperson said the state is reaching out to Massachusetts residents as part of its outreach to communities.

“To raise awareness of the availability of rental assistance, DHCD also engaged ASG to partner on targeted outreach in Springfield, Fall River, and New Bedford. This included a door knocking effort, virtual town hall meetings conducted in English, Spanish, and Portuguese,” the DHCD spokesperson said.

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