Governor Gordon visits Rock Springs to discuss ERAP

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Wyo4News photo of Governor Gordon speaking with Sweetwater County Family Resource workers

Tanya Baer, [email protected]

Rock Springs- On Thursday, June 16th, Governor Mark Gordon visited the Sweetwater Family Resource Center early in the morning to discuss the ERAP program. ERAP is an Emergency Rental Assistance Program helping those in need pay rent and utilities for up to 18 months. Governor Gordon wanted a rundown of what the ERAP program was like from the office worker’s point of view.

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The Governor also wanted to see what issues ERAP was having and what ways those issues could be fixed. One topic discussed was landlords not wanting to deal with ERAP because of the long waiting times until they received the payments. Considering the cost of living has increased so much in just the last few months, many people have been seeking assistance from ERAP and other programs to help with that. With so many applicants, and new applicants each day, there are longer waiting times. What was once a four-week process could now take months. Governor Gordon asked, “How can the State pay faster?” The goal is to streamline the entire process to make things much more convenient and quicker for the office workers, applicants, and landlords.

Another topic was about scams or fraud taking place on both the landlord’s and the renter’s parts. Although it’s rare, on occasion landlords will increase rent in order to collect more money from rental assistance programs. This is considered fraudulent because rental assistance is based on what the tenants are actually paying. On rare occasions, tenants have received rental assistance, but have not used the money to pay their rent. Rental assistance checks go straight to the landlord if they choose to participate, if not, the renter will end up getting the check and it is their job to give this to the landlord.

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Questions about what would happen once applicants were no longer eligible after they received the maximum amount of assistance were asked. What happens when a huge amount of these tenants run out of assistance in the coming months when the cost of living is even higher? One staff member from the Sweetwater Family Resource stated, “Landlords don’t want to deal with tenants who can’t pay rent on their own.” According to Michelle Young, “Governor Gordon urged the staff to continue to tap into local resources such as employment services and the local security office.”

Governor Gordon listened to what all of the office workers had to say, but currently, as he tries to figure out what can be done, there are no changes happening yet. There are still discussions to be had before any changes will take place.

While it has been rough for both renters and landlords, people tend to forget that the office workers are having a difficult time as well. Being on the front lines of the ERAP program can be stressful, especially when the office workers are yelled at or treated disrespectfully. The Governor gave a special thanks to the workers who have been doing this for the last two years now stating, “It’s hard to be on the front line taking the burden, bless these government workers for being here to help, this is the truly humane thing to do”.

The office workers at Sweetwater Family Resource Center are here to help and they want the community of Rock Springs to know this. If you or someone you know is struggling, they offer assistance in a few different ways. You can find them on Facebook, their website, by calling them at (307) 362-6549 or in-person (although appointments are preferred) at 649 N. Front St., Unit A, in Rock Springs.

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