DOA leading $33.6M rent relief program

FOOD AID: Dozens of cars line up to receive free food being distributed to village residents by the Barrigada Mayor's Office with the help of the National Guard, on Monday at the Tiyan carnival grounds in Barrigada. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

The Department of Administration is the lead agency for the $33.6 million federally funded rent relief program that, once implemented, could save families from eviction or homelessness because of the pandemic.

Adelup earlier said Guam Housing Corp. is potentially the agency to administer the program, but that has since changed.

The program is still not accepting applications because it's awaiting further guidance from the U.S. Treasury on program implementation, Adelup said.

On Monday, the U.S. Treasury revised its guidance to make it easier for people to apply for rental assistance "without imposing undue documentation burdens."

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's deputy chief of staff, Alice Taijeron, on Tuesday said there is a "working group creating the documents using Treasury's frequently asked questions" while waiting for further guidance from Treasury.

"As soon as we get the guidance we will be able to hit the ground running," said Taijeron, who is a former GHC president. 

The U.S. Treasury FAQs act as guidance for the Emergency Rental Assistance program requirements. They are available online at https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/ERA-Frequently-Asked-Questions_Pub-2-22-21.pdf.

Among the revisions in the Treasury FAQs is allowing self-attestation to document most eligibility requirements for applicants.

For example, given the COVID-19 challenges, applicants may be allowed to submit photocopies or digital photos of documents, emails or attestations from employers, landlords, caseworkers or others who know about the household's circumstances, the federal agency said.

This would be of particular help to vulnerable populations.

Eligible households may receive up to 12 months of back rent and utility assistance.

Taijeron said the lead agency for the program is DOA, not GHC, but the two agencies, along with the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority are working collaboratively "to help stand up the program."

"Each of the agencies is contributing their experience and expertise to ensure that the program is ready to launch as soon as we get guidance," she said.

Taijeron said press releases will be put out "as soon as we include the updated FAQ from Treasury."

"We will have numbers, a website, email, etc., but please do not inundate the agencies with calls as we are still working to set it up," she said.

GovGuam received the $33.6 million funding in January. The four other U.S. territories also received program funding, ranging from $9.6 million for American Samoa to $325 million for Puerto Rico.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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