CSRS has signed a deal with the state to administer the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which was passed by Congress last year to provide relief to tenants and landlords impacted by the pandemic. Our company will serve as project manager for the state program, which will disburse some $160 million to qualified applicants in 57 of the state’s 64 parishes.
CSRS will work with several other Baton Rouge firms to administer the program, including Postlethwaite & Netterville and Franklin Associates, as well as a national firm and the state’s Office of Community Development and Louisiana Housing Corp.
The $160 million represents about half the nearly $309 million Louisiana received as its share of the $25 billion rental assistance program. The other half of the money went directly to the seven largest parishes, including East Baton Rouge, which are administering the program themselves in their respective jurisdictions.
The program has gotten high marks from fair housing advocates, who say it is the most significant aid for renters and landlords to date, though it still falls short of what is needed to address the housing crisis caused by the pandemic.
The program currently allows renters and landlords to use the money they receive, which maxes out at $15,000, to pay for rent or utilities. An estimated 20,000 or so tenants in the 57 parishes are potentially eligible for the assistance.
CSRS President and CEO Tim Barfield says the firm is working quickly to get the program up and running. By the end of this week, a call center with 50 employees will be operational. Checks could start flowing this month.
“You’ve got to get money out into the community as quickly as you can and as effectively as you can,” he says. “But you have to have the right precautions,” he says.
CSRS will receive some $11.5 million to administer the program, about 7.2% of the total, which Barfield says is a fair price.
“We think it’s a good value,” he says. “The tenants need this, the landlords need it and our economy needs it so we have to get this started up as quickly and effectively as we can. But there is a cost benefit tradeoff to that.”