Nearly 300 Applicants to Get Homeowner Assistance Funding
Updated: Oct 22
By Joe Morey
ARPA Coordinator Brian Bisonette gave an update on the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) program at the General Membership Meeting held on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Sevenwinds Casino Convention Center.
Bisonette said initially the plan estimated about 180 homes would qualify for the up to $30,000 per home available.
The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board (TGB) approved the 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, according to Bisonette, the program has been very popular and far more tribal member homeowners have applied. That number ultimately came in at 294 homes far exceeding what they estimated.
“We were considerably off,” Bisonette stated. Depending on the amount of work on each home and how much is used per home of the $30,000, the total cost could rise to $8,820,000.
Lorene Weilgot, ARPA Project Coordinator, said many of the requested projects will come under the $30,000 mark.
Bisonette added the program was only approved for homeowners living on the Reservation because off-reservation tribal home owners could access the county HAF program.
At the Membership Meeting, he said just over 100 of the applicant homes have been inspected.
“We’re trying to get to everybody but the volume of people wanting assistance, we just can’t get to everyone at one time,” Bisonette explained. “We have till 2024 to get this money spent, and we are always looking at ways to expedite this. We are doing our best, we just hope you all understand. We will get to you.”
Tribal member Dulcie Wolfe asked if it would help if the homeowners got bids for the program. Bisonette answered they just don’t have the available vendors to do specialty work.
“We want to have the homes inspected by Jim Dennis first and then discuss with him what it is you want done,” Bisonette said. Dennis is the HAF inspector.
“We’re doing our best and we’ll get to you when we can,” Dennis added.
Weilgot also asked that all applicants be patient. She explained there are also supply chain issues getting materials for the jobs to consider. She said what used to be four weeks to get windows or doors is now taking 16 weeks.
“They’ve inspected 100 homes and now have 195 to go,” Weilgot said.
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.
In a previous report, Bisonette 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.
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.