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Addressing state rental assistance concerns

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KX News reached out to the Department of Human Services after hearing North Dakotans in need of rental assistance are struggling to access it.

Recently, we spoke with Legal Services of North Dakota, a non-profit that helps people in this situation. The Director told us their clients are finding it tough, and sometimes impossible, to reach a representative with the Rent Bridge program.

Jessica Thomasson, who oversees the program, tells us that was an issue for a while with just two staff members fielding calls. When both were on the phone, the voicemail system wouldn’t work for weeks.

She says that’s been resolved.

So if somebody leaves a voicemail, how long does a response typically take?

“I would think it would be unusual for it not to be the next day to have some sort of a response,” Thomasson, the Executive Policy Director for the state Dept. of Human Services answered.

The other problem for renters was filling out the required information to apply. Legal Services says the criteria appear to be a moving target.

Thomasson says the program’s application has not changed. She attributes the confusion to other local or national assistance requiring totally different qualifications.

“Our program hasn’t changed. You know, we know that it’s been a struggle for people sometimes to get documentation, but it’s a needs-based program so somehow we have to document need,” she added.

“We have had people just take a picture of a paystub and text it to us, or you know…We try to be as flexible as we can, knowing it’s hard to get documents scanned and mailed and all of that.”

Right now the program covers the cost of rent for up to six months. If the legislature approves the use of an additional $200 million in federal dollars, that would be extended to up to a year.

The application would change at that point.

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