CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program phase out its emergency rental assistance created during the COVID-19 pandemic and focus on its next phase.

The West Virginia Housing Development Fund created the Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program in March 2021 to help West Virginia residents get emergency assistance with their rent and utility payments as many people were laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials say the fund has distributed more than $139 million to satisfy more tan 45,000 claims.

“The Mountaineer Rental Assistance Program has helped tens of thousands of West Virginians during this unprecedented health emergency,” said Erica Boggess, Executive Director of the West Virginia Housing Development Fund. “Millions of Americans were deeply affected by the Pandemic, experiencing unemployment, reduced wages, and increased costs. Congress responded by making emergency funding available to address several issues, including housing so that people could maintain housing stability even in dark economic times.”

According to the WVHDF, the program’s new phase will focus on only first-time applicants, and will no longer be accepting applications from residents who have already received assistance. For those first-time applicants, new applications will be taken and processed through the Rental Assistance Online Application portal until funds are depleted, according to the guidelines from the U.S. Treasury.

The WVHDF says those who already have applications submitted should monitor the online portal to make sure the organization has received all requested documents for the application and to see if they have any messages from their case workers.

To receive rents associated with their tenant’s applications, landlords must be registered in the Mountaineer Rental Assistance program’s system.

Both tenants and landlords can review eligibility and required documents online. For help, renters and landlords can go online or call 1-866-623-6284.

The WVHDF says the program will continue to offer support to renters who are faced with eviction and housing stability issues through a partnership with Legal Aid of West Virginia and the Legal Help for West Virginia Renters Program to help renters access free legal services.