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County's Rental Assistance Program struggling to keep up

County's Rental Assistance Program struggling to keep up
Posted at 5:19 PM, Jun 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-21 20:19:48-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — More Tucsonans are struggling to stay in their homes as rent continues to rise. County Supervisor Sharon Bronson fears they're not getting the help they need.

“As we head into what looks like a recession, things are going to be more difficult for tenants and for landlords,” Bronson said.

Her office has received more than 30 complaints regarding the County’s rental assistance program. They range from issues with the website, unresponsiveness, and long wait times.

“We were turning these around in one day, and now it’s six weeks, that’s not acceptable,” Bronson said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the County’s rental assistance department has serviced around 12,500 households. But the County’s department recently merged with the City of Tucson’s, causing a few problems.

“As programs wind down and they transition over to us, it’s been a while since those people applied,” said Daniel Sullivan, Director of the County’s Community and Workforce Development Dept.

The city had a backlog of 3,500 cases, some dating back to January. Those cases are now the responsibility of an understaffed team of 37 county employees. They’re serving all residents within the City of Tucson and Pima County.

“Not only is it physically draining, long hours, but it's emotionally draining," Sullivan said. "People are dealing with folks on the worst day of their lives.”

Sullivan’s department is requesting $30 million from Arizona’s Department of Economic Security to respond to heightened demand. He says they also plan to hire subcontracted employees to improve their website and response times.