Pima County Government Logo
  • Increase font size
  • Decrease font size
  • Print
  • RSS
  • Rental-assistance program allows woman to stay in her home

    Aug 12, 2021 | Read More News
    Share this page
    Daitra Small has always been a hard-working woman. She had a long career with the Tucson Unified School District before multiple sclerosis eventually took away her ability to walk. She now gets around on a small scooter.

    Little did she know that the scooter would one day almost lead to her eviction from her one-bedroom apartment. Fortunately for Small, the joint Pima County and city of Tucson eviction prevention, rental assistance and utility relief program was able to lend a helping hand and is putting her back on her feet financially.

    Like anything mechanical, a scooter will eventually require maintenance or replacement. When that situation recently arrived for Small, however, she was short on money and had to make a hard choice — she could pay for a replacement scooter or she could pay the rent.
     Daitra Small
    Daitra Small, 57, says, "The rental assistance and utility help are going to get me back
    to where I need to be financially."

    She chose the scooter.

    “These are my legs,” she said. “I need this. I can’t do anything without it.”

    Soon after making that decision, however, she found a five-day notice on her apartment door to vacate the premises or be evicted.

    “I was in place I never thought I’d be … facing an eviction,” said Small, 57. “That led to a lot of emotions and feelings, such as frustration, stress and anxiety.”

    Small spoke about her experience with the rental-assistance program at an Aug. 6 press conference called by U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., during which he urged the Arizona Department of Economic Security to do a better job of getting rental-assistance dollars into the community or to transfer those monies to agencies that can more quickly distribute the funds.

    In Small’s case, the program paid for one month of back rent, her current month’s rent and also one month of future rent. The program also was able to help Small with some overdue utility bills.

    “I’ve never had anyone help me with anything like this,” she said. “I was so grateful to hear that I was eligible for assistance. What a relief that was!

    “The rental assistance and utility help are going to get me back to where I need to be financially.”

    The rental-assistance program here and those around the country are meant to help people who were affected financially by the pandemic.

    The program that helped Small is funded with federal dollars that were awarded to Pima County and Tucson and is administered by the County’s Community Action Agency and the local Community Investment Corporation and its nonprofit partners.

    “The whole process was fairly easy,” Small said. “I felt like I had a personal case manager. He worked on my case. He stayed in contact with me. He emailed me. He called me. He did everything. We called each other. He told me what to do. I mean, he was phenomenal.

    “The whole program. Everyone who worked on my case was unbelievable.”

    According to the Eviction Prevention Program’s online dashboard at TucsonPimaEP.com, Small’s is one of more than 3,400 cases that have been processed or submitted for payment since the program launched in March. Altogether, those cases account for more than $21 million in rental assistance that has been paid out or committed.

    Pima County officials involved with the program, which is open to both tenants and landlords, acknowledge that there is a backlog that may take a few months to clear. But they advise applicants, especially landlords, to be patient.

    As of July 21, about 1,000 cases were being processed and nearly 3,000 more were in the queue.

    The good news for tenants and landlords is that there should be plenty of money available to handle all the potential cases.

    In the first round of the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, or ERAP 1, Pima County and Tucson received close to $32 million in funding. For ERAP 2, the two governments received a combined $25 million.

    “This might be one of the few times in the history of the federal government when we have enough money to solve a problem,” said Daniel Sullivan, director of Pima County’s Community & Workforce Development Department. “Now we just have to make sure that money gets out into the community.”

    Grijalva said the subpar distribution of funds at the state level is one reason he called the press conference.

    Whereas Pima County and Tucson have spent $21.5 million, or nearly 70 percent, of their ERAP 1 allocation, the DES has so far spent $11.4 million, or 4 percent, of the more than $289 million it has available, according to a Pima County memo released Aug. 6.

    The situation is made more urgent by the fact that communities must spend at least 65 percent of their ERAP 1 funding by Sept. 30 or the remaining monies go back to the federal government.

    “The feds will send those funds to the communities that are doing a better job of spending it,” Grijalva said at the press conference. “We need to do a better job in Arizona of getting those funds out.”

    Meanwhile, Small is spreading the word among her friends who have been economically affected by COVID-19 to seek rental assistance if they need it. She’s recommended the program to four people, so far.

    “People need to use this program,” she said. “They should try to get help before this money goes away.”