Alaska’s Rent Relief Assistance Program Reaches Milestone Providing $100+ Million to 46,000 Residents
Alaska leads the country in landlord and utility company payments
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Aug. 17, 2021 – Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, working collaboratively with statewide nonprofit partners immersed in homelessness prevention, has distributed more than $100 million in Alaska Housing Rent Relief assistance to 18,087 households totaling 46,708 residents. As part of the federal COVID relief package passed at year-end 2020, approximately $242 million was allocated for processing through Alaska Housing Rent Relief. Alaska renters have been among the first to be approved for assistance, with eligible applicants receiving commitments for up to 12 months of rent and/or utility relief. Alaska is leading the country in this effort with payments going directly to landlords and utility companies.
Program Statistics (Aug. 13, 2021, 12 p.m.):
- 30,316 applications submitted (one-third of Alaska renters);
- 25,808 applications met federal income eligibility requirements;
- 18,087 households assisted; 46,708 individuals living in rental housing served;
- Average household assistance totaled $5,544;
- Total of $100,280,597.77 federal funds paid to landlords and utility companies.
Anticipating the significant effort that would be required to successfully initiate and facilitate a substantive system of distribution for financial relief in the midst of a pandemic, AHFC gathered in December 2020 to devise a strategy with two main goals: streamline procedures thus removing roadblocks, and leverage technology to add speed and efficiencies to the applicant approval process. An immediate outreach to community leaders subsequently led to five nonprofit organizations, 15 tribal entities and the Municipality of Anchorage joining forces and working with AHFC to distribute payments covering past-due rent, and/or future rent and utilities.
The cooperative relationships between AHFC and nonprofit entities, as well as tribal partners, has proven to be crucial for shaping the program. The effort to quickly stand up a distribution system for rent and utility relief is one of a few national success stories; Alaska was one of the first states to accept applications beginning mid-February 2021.
“I’d like to highlight the tremendous unified commitment between AHFC and our partners and thank them for their trust in us. Together, we are successfully keeping thousands of Alaska renters in their homes and strengthening the financial solvency of their landlords,” says Bryan Butcher, CEO/executive director of AHFC. “We are operating with a focus on our friends and neighbors, following the data that confirms emotional and physical benefits of keeping Alaskans stably housed.”
An intentional strategy of AHFC’s program included implementing automation technology into the early application approval process. Automation significantly reduced processing time and ultimately made approving rent and utility relief funds more quickly available. Robust system checks are in place to verify identities and prevent potential fraud.
A total of 12 months of rent and utility relief funds for either past-due rent or future rent and utilities is available but funds are allocated in 90-day increments in accordance with the federal legislation. The process requires tenants to certify their continued hardship every 90 days, with approved funds paid directly to the landlord and/or utility companies.
AHFC’s automation technology offers further efficiencies and system speed with auto-generated reminders distributed to eligible applicants prior to each 90-day mark. To date, 5,030 households have had a second round of payments distributed on their behalf.
Reports across the U.S. have criticized many states for the slow roll-out of Emergency Rental Relief. Alaska is unique in that all income-eligible applicants have either received payment or commitment letters signed by AHFC’s CEO/executive director.
While the majority of Alaska Housing Relief applications and supporting documentation were submitted by smart phone and work is conducted online, AHFC has established a call center at its headquarters. In total, 134 Alaskans across the state have been hired to work as Rent Relief Specialists who are on-hand to answer questions and assist applicants with the recertification process.
Alaska is one of the few states to launch a weekly online program update with information about progress including number of applications received and total funds distributed. The dashboard and pandemic-related housing resources are published at AlaskaHousingRelief.org.
Alaska Housing Finance Corporation is a public corporation providing Alaskans access to safe, quality and affordable housing through residential financing, energy efficiency, public housing and more. Since 1986, Alaska Housing has contributed more than $2.1 billion to the State of Alaska.