Weekly Address – February 4, 2022

From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.


The Arkansas rental assistance program has been a success, but officials are making a few changes to the application process to better protect against fraud.


Until the changes have been implemented, the state is putting the program on hold and will not accept new applications.


The director of the program told legislators that it should not take long at all to implement the changes, and they would likely be in place this week.


However, the state will continue to process any applications that were submitted before last Friday, January 28th.


The program helps Arkansas residents stay in their homes if their household income have diminished due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Some of those funds helped people pay their utility bills.


It helps people who have lost their jobs, or had their hours cut. It also helps people who are strapped with large medical bills due to the Covid virus.


So far, the state has awarded about $68 million in rental assistance, but it has denied applications totalling about $128 million.


About 22,600 households have benefited from the assistance. About two-thirds of the total payments went directly to landlords or to utility companies.


In some cases, the checks went directly to the tenant, because the landlord declined to participate. In those cases, a fraud unit would investigate if state officials learned that the landlord never received a rent payment.


Legislators have heard stories about fraud in the program, and at their urging the state Department of Human Services tweaked the process.


When the state sends a check to the tenant, it also will have the landlord’s name on it. That means the landlord must co-sign, in order for the check to be cashed. This additional step virtually guarantees that the check will be used for rental assistance.


The department is working on applications for more than $50 million in rental and utility assistance, and will continue sending checks to qualified applicants until it no longer has any funding.


Last year Arkansas started with about $173 million for rental assistance.


To stay on top of any new information, or to check the status of an application, you can Google Arkansas DHS rent relief.


That’s Arkansas DHS rent relief.


In spite of a few cases of fraud that have been uncovered, the rental assistance program is considered a success.


Without it, the financial impact of the Covid pandemic would have been much worse, because thousands of people in Arkansas would have been at risk of being evicted from their homes.


From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.