New Mexicans struggle to get rental assistance

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RIO RANCHO, N.M. – October is just a few days away, and everyone know what that means—another rent payment is due. But some New Mexicans are still struggling with unemployment or rental assistance and benefits, it has become near impossible to come up with the money month after month.

BreAnna Arizmendi, a mother of four, whose hours as an optometrist tech got cut because of the pandemic, said she applied for rental assistance back in April, through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).

"I couldn’t go back to work and then I just got unemployment but it was nothing,” said Arizmendi. “It was like $160 a week."

She said she picked up side jobs in order to make ends meet for months, until June 30th, when she got an email that said she’d officially been awarded assistance.

"I was literally driving to go donate plasma when I got the email,” said Arizmendi. “So I turned around, all glory to God, and now I’m just waiting and waiting."

She’s still waiting on a check for $3,600 to cover three months of rent. She said the program told her they cut a check for her, sent it out August 2nd, and said it would take up to 18 days to get there, it never came.

"It was truly a blessing, I was really excited for it but now I’m just trying to work hard,” Arizmendi said.

She said she had to borrow money from family and friends in order to pay rent for the past three months, and is still trying to be patient.

"Now October is coming and I’m like ‘okay I only have one more paycheck coming and it’s not enough to cover my October rent.”

ERAP Director, Donnie Quintana, said “Since the program launch, we have worked to streamline and simplify the application process, but potential delays may still arise. Delays are usually related to missing documentation. Missing documents may include self-certified documentation of need, documented impact from COVID-19, or a completed tax document from the landlord. In the event these documents are not provided, ERAP staff will make direct contact with the applicant or landlord to obtain missing information.”

Quintana also said the state’s current eviction moratorium blocks renters from being evicted because of overdue rent. If your landlord tries to sue, ERAP said it will work directly with the courts to help applicants or eligible renters.