Wind River Rental Assistance Program To Distribute $4.2 Million For Rent, Utilities
When Congress set aside $25 billion for rental assistance in December, some of that went to tribes. And those checks are already being cut on the Wind River Reservation.
While the state of Wyoming received about $200 million, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes have access to a combined $4.2 million.
Lynnette Grey Bull is helping to distribute that money with Northern Arapaho Tribal Housing. She said that money is already going to folks who need it.
"I wanted to make it as easy as possible for families and individuals to get the help that they needed in a timely fashion," she said.
Wind River's pre-existing housing shortage and crisis were made worse by the pandemic. With so many out of work, many moved back in with family to save money, while kids were suddenly at home every day, attending virtual school. This led to overcrowding.
The Wind River Emergency Rental Assistance Program seeks to help people who find themselves in these or other tight situations. Wind River's program is part of the larger federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program which put aside $25 billion for states, large cities and tribes — to be used exclusively for rent and utility payments.
The Northern Arapaho were one of the first tribes in the country to stand up their distribution program. That early launch meant they were also able to help non-tribal members across the state who might have been facing eviction, or a utility shutoff, as the state got its own program up and running.
From the national program, the Eastern Shoshone was given $1.6 million, while the Northern Arapaho Tribe was allocated $2.6 million.
But to get the full $2.6 million, Northern Arapaho Tribal Housing has to give out 65 percent of that total by September. That's a tall order — about $55,000 dollars in payments every week. But Lynnette Grey Bull, with Northern Arapaho Tribal Housing, says they’re surpassing that figure, and expects to receive the full amount.
"We're about a month and a half ahead of our goal," Grey Bull said. "So we are reassured that we will hit our 65 percent spending goal by September 30, and we'll be able to continue the program."
The $25 billion behind the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program came from Congress' Consolidated Appropriations Act, passed in December 2020. An additional $21 billion could be made available after that due to the American Rescue Plan of 2021, passed in March. But this second round of rental assistance is not available to tribes.