Hinds and Harrison counties can apply for a portion of the more than $100 million in emergency rental assistance funds that Gov. Tate Reeves is returning to the U.S. Treasury.
According to June 28 guidelines from the U.S. Treasury, “When feasible and consistent with jurisdiction needs, Treasury intends to reallocate excess funds from a grantee to another grantee in the same state. When appropriate, after such an intrastate allocation, a grantee’s excess funds will be reallocated in other states.”
It is not clear whether Hinds or Harrison will apply for the funds being returned to the federal government by Reeves. Credell Calhoun, who is president of the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, recently said he would inquire about the money.
The COVID-19 federal rental assistance program started in 2020 with the first round of pandemic funding for states and continued last year with a subsequent round of federal funding. Mississippi was allocated about $340 million. But earlier this month, Reeves announced he was cutting off applications for the program on Aug. 15 and returning all unobligated funds to the federal government.
It is likely the state will return more than $100 million – a portion of which could be available to Hinds and Harrison and to other states.
By discontinuing the program, Reeves said he was incentivizing people to find jobs.
Besides federal legislation providing funds for states, large-population counties received money directly for emergency rental assistance. In Mississippi, Harrison and Hinds were the only counties to qualify for direct funding.
Hinds has obligated its allotment – about $15 million. Harrison has received about $11.4 million and still has some money left.
Sara Miller, senior policy analyst with the Hope Policy Institute, said if Hinds and-or Harrison applied for and received a portion of the state funds, they could only be spent in those two counties.
Vangela Wade, chief executive officer of the Mississippi Center for Justice, said: “Every Mississippian with a financial need for assistance and who qualifies for rental assistance should receive assistance regardless of their county of residence. “
In social media posts and during a news conference, Reeves said the Mississippi economy is booming and people do not need help with rental assistance.
The program, Reeves wrote, “was originally intended to help those struggling as a DIRECT result of COVID. Yet, like so many other government programs on Democrats’ wish lists, it fundamentally lost its way and no longer serves its original purpose. “
Reeves later commented a Clarksdale landlord pleading guilty in civil proceedings in federal court in the Northern District of Mississippi of defrauding the Rental Assistance for Mississippi Program.
Reeves said the announcement is “more proof that Mississippi made the right call by ending RAMP. Not only did this program run astray of its original intent, but saw an increasing number of potentially fraudulent applications. While some Democrat politicians lambasted our decision, the discovery of this fraud scheme further justifies terminating the program.”
In a statement earlier this month, Wade of the Center for Justice said it is “ironic” that the governor was talking about fraud involving poor people when state audits have revealed that possibly more than $90 million in welfare funds have been diverted from the poor to supporters of many in the state’s political leadership for a litany of projects ranging from building a volleyball court to paying for cars and houses.
Based on information provided by the Home Corporation, which was tapped by Reeves to oversee the Mississippi Program, about 65% of the applicants approved to receive funds through the program are employed, and a majority are Black and female.
U.S. Census data, for the week ending July 11, showed that 44.5% of adult Mississippians surveyed reported being behind on their rent or mortgage, with eviction or foreclosure in the next two months being either very likely or somewhat likely.
During the same time period last year, 60.5% reported eviction or foreclosure as likely. At times during the pandemic, Mississippi led the nation in the percentage of people reporting likelihood of eviction or foreclosure.
Reeves reported in early August that 86,146 people applied for the program and that 36,889 were approved for assistance. It is not clear how many additional applications were approved during the final weeks that the Home Corporation was taking applications.