Homeowner Assistance Fund Sees over 200 Applicants
By Joe Morey
As of Feb. 1, there have been 219 applicants for the Homeowner Assistance Fund for the up-to $30,000 per home available, which comes to over $6 million in total funding.
The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board (TGB) approved the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) to assist tribal members living on the LCO reservation back in October of 2021. Originally, $2.1 million is funded by the United States Treasury as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and the TGB approved matching that amount to create a $4.2 million dollar fund, but since that time, the program has been very popular and far more tribal member homeowners have applied.
Lorene Weilgot, the ARPA Coordinator, said that if all 219 applicants are awarded the full $30,000 allowed per home, the fund would exceed $6 million, but she added, many of the requested projects will come under the $30,000 mark.
According to ARPA, the HAF was established to mitigate financial hardships associated with the coronavirus pandemic by providing funds to eligible entities for the purpose of preventing homeowner mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacements of homeowners experiencing financial hardship after January 21, 2020, through qualified expenses related to mortgages and housing.
According to Kelly Nayquonabe, the HAF Coordinator, they are tackling many small needs of the homeowners right now, but they have a couple of projects that went right up to the $30,000 mark.
Brian Bisonette, also of the ARPA program, said HAF is only meant to make sure tribal members have a good, safe living environment and is not meant to enhance their home or increase the asset.
“Under the HAF policy, the request has to be reasonable,” Weilgot explained. She added examples include roof repairs as a good request but a new garage would be refused.
Weilgot said the Tribe is following the US Treasury guidelines.
Weilgot also said Jim Dennis has been hired as the HAF inspector and to date, he has inspected over 50 homes. They are currently serving the eldest Elders first and also on tribal member emergencies such as furnace issues.
At a previous meeting with the TGB, Tom Tainter, the ARPA Projects Manager, explained to the TGB some of the process. He said after they get the request from the homeowner, they will purchase materials needed and have it delivered. They will then monitor the project as it goes.
“We make sure anyone using the program doesn’t turn around and sell the materials,” Tainter explained.
Eligibility for the program included must be Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal member living in the home and the home has to be located within the Lac Courte Oreilles boundaries. Its usage included mortgage assistance, delinquent property tax, home repairs/renovations.