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Department of Family Services introduces changes to ERAP application process for landlords

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The Conquistador Apartments in Casper are seen in April 2020.

Wyoming’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program — which uses federal relief money to help tenants struggling to pay their rent — has streamlined part of its application process for landlords.

The program now uses DocuSign, an online document management service, to keep landlords in the loop when tenants have their rental assistance extended.

The change follows complaints from tenants and landlords about application snags and spotty communication from the Department of Family Services, the state agency running the program.

Most tenants who apply to ERAP use it to cover their rent. Those tenants — and their landlords — each fill out applications on the Department of Family Services’ website. (Tenants can also apply for help with utilities and moving costs.)

Both parties can keep tabs on the progress of their applications online. Once they are approved, the Department of Family Services sends a check to the landlord reimbursing the tenant’s rent.

But federal regulations require tenants to reapply for ERAP money every three months. They can get up to 18 months of assistance.

Landlords weren’t originally notified when their tenants applied to extend their ERAP. They “expressed frustrations with little to no communication during the extension process,” Rachel Girt, a contracted spokesperson for the program, said in an email.

The new platform also gives landlords the chance to opt out of ERAP extensions, Girt said in the email.

If a landlord refuses to participate in ERAP, the tenant can still get rental assistance — the agency just sends the check to the tenant instead.

ERAP launched in spring of 2021. It’s currently funded by the American Rescue Plan of 2021, which President Joe Biden signed into law last year.

Due to its nature as an emergency assistance program, Department of Family Services didn’t have much time to plan for ERAP — which the agency has said contributed to some of the hiccups in its application process.

The program has smoothed out since its start last year, applicants told the Star-Tribune in April. But mistakes as simple as typos in addresses or photocopies of documents being too dark could still cause applications to stall for weeks, they said.

Anyone with questions about applications can reach out to the Department of Family Services’ hotline, 1-877-WYO-ERAP.

The program’s also launched an email address where landlords can direct questions about the program, erap-landlord@wyo.gov.

The Department of Family Services also sends out ERAP updates and application tips in a weekly newsletter. To subscribe, visit the agency’s website.

As of Friday, ERAP has provided about $47 million in assistance to Wyoming residents — including $37 million paid directly to landlords, $6.8 million to renters, $2.8 million to utilities companies and $11,000 to reimburse moving costs, according to the Department of Family Services’ website.

Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Wyoming has access to up to $152 million in federal rental assistance. That money is set to expire in 2025.

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