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Emergency rental assistance gets a boost

MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Housing Authority (VSHA) has been allocated $110 million in federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act to administer the Vermont Emergency Rental Assistance Program (VERAP). The program was created to stabilize Vermont’s rental market by providing direct assistance to residential tenants and landlords to stimulate the economy of the state still struggling from the COVID 19 pandemic.

The program comes at an increasingly critical time in Vermont’s rental market with state and federal eviction moratoriums coming to an end as soon as July 31. As of May 2021, it was estimated that 17% of renters in Vermont are behind on rent. 

VERAP has been quickly ramping up to meet the rental assistance needs of Vermonters with over $1 million in assistance going out every week. Jorayia Dozier, caseworker with BPO American, the call center and case management vendor that VSHA has contracted, says, “The morale seems to be returning and the residents of Vermont are finally able to catch their breath. This program has opened many doors for different individuals whether it be a landlord or a tenant.” BPO American now has 62 call center employees and 38 case managers on staff to get information out and applications processed as effectively as possible.

Vermont is emerging as a national leader in the rollout of the ERA funding. To date, Vermont has disseminated $6,690,453 of rental assistance for both back rent and prospective future rent payments, as well as moving costs and security deposits. Nationally, ERA funding has been slow to get out to applicants.

The call center is not the only resource for people applying for the program.

“There are a lot of folks turning to our community partners across the state alongside the call center staff,” said VSHA Program Manager Tyler Maas. “Their efforts have helped Vermonters with technical challenges, limited internet access, or disabilities apply for the program.”

To date, VSHA has provided direct training to over 400 individuals in over 30 organizations.

VSHA continues to train individuals and organizations in every corner of the state to help Vermonters receive this necessary relief. VERAP will continue taking applications through Dec. 31, or as long as funds are available. The link to the VERAP application portal can be found at vsha.org.

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