Reeves orders end of federal rent, utility assistance program

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 1:06 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Governor Tate Reeves announced on Wednesday that Mississippi is ending a federal program in the state that offers up to 15 months of free rent and utility bill payments.

At the direction of Governor Reeves, Mississippi Home Corporation will stop accepting applications to the federal government’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, effective August 15, 2022.

In Mississippi, this program is referred to as the Rental Assistance for Mississippians Program, or RAMP.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program was initially designed to help those who had a hardship caused by COVID-19. Reeves

However, Reeves said the program’s second tranche of funding has strayed widely from the program’s original purpose and intent because it no longer requires applicants to provide proof that they cannot pay their rent or utility bills due to a hardship caused by COVID-19.

”Mississippi isn’t afraid to make hard decisions to improve our workforce participation. That’s what we’re doing today,” said Governor Tate Reeves. “This program has essentially become: If for whatever reason you can’t pay your rent or utility bill, taxpayers will pay them for you. Mississippi will continue to say no to these types of liberal handouts that encourage people to stay out of the workforce. Instead, we’re going to say yes to conservative principles and policies that result in more people working.”

The Governor is also concerned the emergency rental assistance program is incentivizing people not to work.

“This is a program that when initially started made sense, because many of these individuals lost employment through no fault of their own,” said Reeves. “In today’s world, we we don’t have a lot of people out looking for jobs, we have a lot of jobs out looking for people.”

Sarah Taylor is one of the folks telling us she’s had problems getting through to anyone at the Mississippi Home Corporation that manages the program.

“If I’m waiting three to four months to get what I requested for so they pretty much kind of put me back in the same spot that I began with,” explained Taylor.

You’re able to get up to 15 months of assistance and Taylor only got three initially. But she’s left waiting to hear if they’ll accept her recertification.

We asked the Governor about the delays.

“The application process does take some time because we do have a focus on ensuring that we minimize or mitigate fraud,” said Reeves. “As this program has dragged on over the last several months. We suspect that a higher and higher percentage of those applications are potentially fraudulent. And so that, of course, slows down the approval process for those individuals who have legitimate applications.”

He says it’s yet another reason he’s choosing to end the program. 36,889 Mississippians have gotten approved out of the 86,146 who applied. 32,442 have been denied. The 16,815 still in process should not be impacted by the announcement. And the Home Corporation tells us recertifications will also not be impacted.

Vangela M. Wade, president, and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) has since issued the following statement:

The announcement only applies to applications that have not yet been submitted.

If an application to the program has already been submitted, Wednesday’s announcement will have no effect on it.

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