ALEXANDRIA, La. – Jack Hunter and his wife didn’t know where to turn. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 60-year-old sales representative lost his job. Weeks later his wife was laid off too, and the bills began piling up.
“We got into a bind and then we just couldn’t catch up with everything. It wasn’t like we were 12 months behind. We were only two or three months late on our rent, but we were struggling with groceries and utility bills, and then my car broke down on top of everything else.”
The Hunters learned about Louisiana’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program through their landlord, who is also a family friend. The couple rents the house Jack grew up in, but as their financial situation worsened, they worried they might face eviction and they decided to ask for help.
The Hunters filed an application through LAStateRent.com, submitting the necessary information and paperwork. They met with a program case manager who worked with them to make sure their application was complete, and after discovering a key piece of information was submitted incorrectly, the case manager solved the problem, and the Hunters were able to get the financial assistance they needed to stay in their rental home.
“We really appreciate the program. I’ve always supported my family, so at first, I didn’t want to ask for assistance, but that is what the program is there for. Everybody was so helpful. It was really a great experience. In fact, I have shared information about the program with five other people.”
The Hunters are finally getting back on their feet. Jack’s wife has been able to return to work and Jack has gone back to school and is studying to become a counselor. “You just have to keep going. I am doing my best and I have a 4.0 GPA in my classes,” he said.
When asked if he had any advice for someone in his shoes, “If you need help ask for it. Everybody gets in a bind sometimes. It’s easy to apply and the program really helped us.”
QUITMAN, La. – Michael Lowe was worried when his job in the oilfield service industry shut down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The single father of three had never had to ask for help before.
“Whenever I came home from working in the oilfield, it was impossible to find a job. It was the first time I ever had to think about filing for any form of government assistance, but I really had no choice in order to take care of my kids until I could get back to work.”
Mr. Lowe learned about Louisiana’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program through a friend, and at first, he didn’t think he would qualify for help.
“I applied through the website. It was easy, and it didn’t take long at all,” he said.
After hitting a snag with one piece of information, he called the program call center seeking assistance. He got an immediate response, and a caseworker helped him over the phone to get all the paperwork turned in and complete his application.
“The program has been really helpful. I didn’t expect that it was going to help out like it did, and I also didn’t expect it to be as fast as it was.”
When asked if he had any advice for someone in his shoes, he urged those who are struggling, “Just make the call. The sooner you do, the sooner the help comes. I would definitely refer people to the program. It’s out there, and it helps 100 percent.”
A Louisiana native residing in Ouachita Parish was struggling with monthly rent payment due to unemployment and damage from Hurricane Laura, then was hit with medical bills she was unable to pay.
A resident of Ouachita Parish for over 12 years, a Louisiana woman suffered extensive home and property damage following Hurricane Laura, which hit southwest Louisiana in the middle of the pandemic. Her landlord did not have funding to repair her damaged air conditioning unit, leaving her without air conditioning from August 27th to October 2020.”
“As I was processing what was occurring around the world, I was faced with having to relocate due to Hurricane Laura,” she said when recounting her experience. Faced with a rent that doubled after relocating and inconsistency in unemployment benefits, the tenant was burdened with wondering whether she would be able to pay her rent each month. “I was forced to live with family members during this transition, incurring additional debt.”
“You don’t want anyone to know you’re struggling,” she said. “But then the kind of work you have been doing for years – you’re not able to do it anymore because of the pandemic.”
In the midst of her hardship, she received an email alerting her of the Louisiana Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
“At first I didn’t think it was real,” she said. “But then I was blessed because I was put in touch with my case manager and there was something about her. In the first two minutes of our conversation, I was so relieved.”
When recalling that first conversation, she said “There could be 1,000 people around me, and I would recognize her voice.” The tenant’s case manager walked her through the process, keeping her informed along the way and staying in frequent contact. “I feel strongly blessed to have had a case manager who professionally performed her job in processing my application, to whom I have often referred to an “Angel in My Time of Despair.”
Then, the tenant was admitted to the hospital and left with a bill she could not pay. With great concern for how she was going to pay for her medical bills, necessary prescriptions and her rent, the tenant was notified that her application was processed, and she would immediately begin receiving financial assistance.