COVID rent assistance applications closing

Time’s running out for Oregonians affected by the COVID pandemic to receive state help in paying rent.

The Oregon Housing and Community Services Department will close applications for rent assistance on Monday, Mar. 14.

People who are falling behind on rent or owe back rent can apply for aid through an online state portal until then and receive up to three months of future rent and utilities and one year of back rent and utilities. They’ll also be protected from eviction until the state aid arrives once they apply

After the state portal closes, aid will still be available through local organizations. Information about those programs can be found by calling 211 or visiting the 211 website. 

Applications reopened in January after the Legislature added $100 million to the fund during a special legislative session in December. The agency estimates more than 11,000 tenants have requested more than $125 million since applications reopened.

During an earlier round of aid from May to December of 2021, the agency paid about $289 million to more than 40,000 Oregon households. 

Not everyone who applies will receive help, agency spokeswoman Delia Hernández said in an email. The agency is making decisions based on who needs the help most.

Under a law passed in December, the COVID rental assistance program must end by September. At its current rate, the state housing agency expects to finish all payments by the end of June. 

It’s possible Oregon could receive more federal funding for pandemic-related housing assistance. The U.S. Treasury sent Oregon $289 million for rent assistance last year and the state expected additional funding as the federal government redistributed funds from states that didn’t spend all their rent assistance money to states that did. 

Gov. Kate Brown asked for more money last fall, but the U.S. Treasury hasn’t yet released more to states.