Connecticut's rental assistance program -- UniteCT -- had an RV traveling the state to help people fill out an application to get aid.
Connecticut's rental assistance program -- UniteCT -- had an RV traveling the state to help people fill out an application to get aid. CT Department of Housing Twitter page

Connecticut’s rental assistance program has received an $11 million boost in funding from the federal government, meaning more aid will be available for tenants in need, Gov. Ned Lamont’s office announced Tuesday.

Initially, the UniteCT program had about $400 million from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act. Over the past few months, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has been redistributing money from states and localities that were slow to spend their money.

The rent aid program aims to prevent evictions of people who struggled financially during the pandemic.

After a slow start as the state set up its program in early 2021, Connecticut picked up the pace on distributing its funds and has received additional money under the reallocation. The state had previously requested about $243 million from the federal government in a document submitted late last year.

UniteCT provides up to 12 months of rent and electric assistance to households that earn up to 80% of the area median income and were financially impacted by the pandemic.

The program stopped taking applications in February, after which evictions spiked to some of their highest numbers in a month since at least 2017.

In recent weeks, the state’s 211 hotline has been receiving about 1,000 housing-and-shelter-related calls per day. The hotline aims to connect residents with a variety of services, including housing, food and mental health care.

“Thanks to UniteCT and the emergency funding we received from the federal government, thousands of renters financially impacted by the pandemic have been able to remain in their homes and landlords have continued receiving payments on their behalf,” Lamont said in a Tuesday press release. “I applaud Connecticut’s Congressional delegation and the Biden-Harris administration for their ongoing commitment to provide the resources required to keep our families safely housed.”

So far, UniteCT has distributed about $322.6 million to about 50,000 households, according to a state Department of Housing dashboard. Another $88 million are payments in progress.

On average, households receive about $8,300 in rent assistance and nearly $1,500 in utility assistance, according to a press release from Lamont’s office.

Typically, payments go directly to landlords on behalf of the tenants. Renters across the country and in Connecticut have reported difficulty getting aid because of landlords who were unwilling to participate in the program. Landlords have said they’re frustrated by a slow payment process.

After the program stopped taking applications, the state pulled about 20,000 incomplete applications from consideration. About 10,700 of those were because the landlord hadn’t completed the application, and another 9,500 because the tenant hadn’t completed the application.

The state plans to leverage the additional funds with a $1.5 million in its rent bank, which the state legislature approved during the last session.

“As we all know, the pandemic was tough on everyone, but especially tough for our renters and homeowners,” said Seila Mosquera-Bruno, the Connecticut Department of Housing commissioner, in the press release. “Since March of 2021, through UniteCT, Connecticut has distributed over nearly 80% of its original tranches of money from the federal government. With this additional funding, we will be able to place an even greater emphasis on assisting those households that are either currently going through an eviction or facing an eviction.”

More information about UniteCT is available online.

Ginny is CT Mirror's children's issues and housing reporter and a Report for America corps member. She covers a variety of topics ranging from child welfare to affordable housing and zoning. Ginny grew up in Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas' Lemke School of Journalism in 2017. She began her career at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette where she covered housing, homelessness, and juvenile justice on the investigations team. Along the way Ginny was awarded a 2019 Data Fellowship through the Annenberg Center for Health Journalism at the University of Southern California. She moved to Connecticut in 2021.