209 Zion Street in Hartford, Connecticut, September 5, 2019. Monica Jorge
So far 5,800 people have qualified for assistance meant to help just 5,000 of them. Monica Jorge

When state officials set aside $20 million to help people struggling to pay rent during the pandemic, that money was supposed to help at least 5,000 people by giving them up to $4,000 in assistance.

By Wednesday, 5,800 people have qualified for the help, and the state’s hotline continues to field about 200 calls a day. It’s unclear whether the state will be able to stretch the funds further because  some applicants need less than $4,000 in aid.

“My hope is, we’re going to help as many people as need it. Unfortunately, we know that’s not true,” said Michael Santoro, a top official at the Connecticut Department of Housing said Thursday at a public hearing on the state’s response to COVID-19.

When Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, co-chairman of the legislature’s Housing Committee, asked Santoro how long the funding will last, he didn’t have a concrete response.

“Do we need more money? Well, I will be perfectly honest, Rep. McGee, my staff and I are overwhelmed at the moment dealing with the $20 million and the 5,800 applicants that we have already. Do we need more? I can’t say yes, but I can’t say no. We have our hands full. We’re doing our best. My staff and I are working day and night,” said Santoro.

State eviction rates are expected to jump from 4% in a typical year to 7% this year, the governor’s office recently concluded after surveying landlords. The state recently expanded COVID-spurred eviction protections through October.

Nearly a quarter of renters in Connecticut missed their June rent payment. Women, Black and Hispanic people, and those living in the state’s largest cities are disproportionately affected by this economic downturn and the resulting housing crisis. Renters typically earn less than half that of homeowners.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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