Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor
(The Center Square) - Colorado has distributed more than $168 million in pandemic-related emergency rental assistance payments (ERAP) as of September 1, a state agency said this week.
The total represents a 12% increase from three weeks ago, when officials from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), which oversees the Division of Housing (DOH), told The Denver Channel that they had distributed $149 million in rental assistance payments.
DOH is currently paying out nearly $6 million in claims per week, the agency said. This volume is larger than payments made in some previous months.
"Our mission to keep Coloradans safely and stably housed through the pandemic is an enormous undertaking, and we strive to become more efficient in our processes every single day," DOH Housing Director Alison George said in a statement. "However, our efforts don't slow down when COVID does. There are still plenty of people in need and there are resources that can help."
Colorado significantly upped its disbursement rate after partnering with Bill.com to help process ERAP payments. DOH also recently extended contracts with companies to help administer the program, Colorado Politics reported.
During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers passed a slew of bills allowing DOLA to address other housing issues wrought by the pandemic - namely affordability and homelessness.
Lawmakers passed House Bill 21-1117 giving local authorities the ability to set affordable housing development guidelines through land use policy.
Lawmakers also passed Senate Bill 21-242, which allocated $45 million to DOLA to fund grants for local authorities to transform unused motels and hotels into homeless shelters.
Since the legislative session ended in June, DOH has approved more than $29.5 million for various development and rehabilitation projects for Coloradans earning between 30% and 80% of an area's median income.
DOH is also soliciting proposals for grant funding to acquire unused land or existing properties to build non-congregate shelters and provide tenancy support services.
"[DOH] has worked hard to build systems and procedures to assist those who are at risk for housing instability," George said. "With this wide variety of resources, we hope to give every Coloradan the chance to stay housed through the pandemic and beyond."