NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — A temporary Pandemic emergency rent and utility assistance program is changing after reaching its goal a year earlier than projected.

ND Rent Help has helped more than 17,500 households with rental assistance, but now the focus is shifting to helping those in immediate need.

ND Rent Help was started with funds from the federal government to provide housing stability and rent and utility assistance. And now after helping 52 counties in the state, that portion of the program has wrapped up and the focus is now moving to housing stability.

“We had projected how long we thought it would take to utilize all the funding and what we’ve seen is just a really high demand for the program. Over the last year, it’s been very consistent that we’ve seen almost 3,000 applications a month and really just hadn’t plateaued. And so we actually utilized the funding that was available for that rent and utility assistance earlier than expected just because of the demand,” said Jessica Thomasson, the executive director of the Human Services Division of the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services.

But, not just anyone can apply for this help, it’s only open to those who are homeless or at imminent risk of being homeless.

“It could be that someone maybe has a court date for an eviction so it is imminent. So when we talk about imminent, it really is something that is imminently set to occur. They may be staying with a friend or family because they lost their place, and so it’s called doubled up. And so it could be that that’s their situation and they’re just moving from place to place because they don’t have a place of their own,” said Thomasson.

According to the ND Rent Help dashboard, as of Thursday, May 11, ND Rent Help has paid out more than $117,000,000 in total assistance.

“Our goal is just to try to make sure that there are resources available to help people find a place and get back on their feet. And we work with housing providers all over the state. They’re a huge part of this. The landlords and the housing providers are a key. And we want to make that this can work for them and for the household and everyone involved,” said Thomasson.

There is also a federal government-funded program to help homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure or need assistance with housing costs. It’s called the Homeowner Assistance Fund.