DOA facing challenges with Emergency Rental Assistance program

Department of Administration (PNC file photo)

The Emergency Rental Assistance program was created to ease the financial burden on tenants and landlords.

But Department of Administration Director Edward Birn says that the informal nature of many rental agreements on Guam has created challenges.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program was created to provide renters impacted by COVID-19 with rent rental arrears, utilities, and utility arrears assistance for up to 15 months.

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The payments are made directly to landlords and utility agencies.

Birn said that one of the challenges to the program on Guam is the lack of paperwork.

Birn said that many rental agreements are simply done with a handshake among friends or relatives.

Although the economic impact is very real, the federal government may not recognize the agreement.

“The corporate landlords have everything in order. And so their tenants…and I know some of these landlords are working with the tenants to help them because basically they’re the ones who are going to get paid when the money does get paid out. So they’re certainly working on how to formalize the paperwork. The smaller landlords are obviously struggling a little bit, but we do our best to help both them and the tenant to get this money paid out,” Birn said.

Birn said that because the program is federally funded it has strict requirements.

He said many smaller landlords lack the necessary paperwork to be recognized by the program, including business licenses.

However, Birn said that DOA is doing its best to work with small landlords who would benefit from the program.

“I know the moratorium on evictions ends on July 1st, but we certainly are going to work with them. And if anybody, any landlords are in doubt as to the status of their payout..they can call in, and we will answer the question, and we will certainly assure them..or advise them…as to if and when a payment is coming,” Birn said.