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Loudoun County renters, advocates grow frustrated with delay in rent relief assistance

by Max Marcilla/DC News Now

LEESBURG, Va. (DC News Now) — Loudoun County renters are frustrated that the help they thought was coming is still not available.

On Friday, renters and advocates with the New Virginia Majority organization rallied in front of Loudoun County’s Housing and Community Development Office Building. Rally goers shared their concerns with county staff, who then gave them an update on the program.

Renters are concerned because it’s been nearly six months since the county approved a plan to spend millions to help struggling renters, but the money has not yet made its way to those in need.

The rally goers chanted “ahora now,” as they raised signs and wore New Virginia Majority orange shirts.

“Padres soltero, madres soltera, esta furiendo mucho,” Heida Vasquez said which translates to “Single dads and moms are struggling.”

The plan that the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors approved in January was for about $12 million to go into a variety of housing issues. The money, which came from the federal government, was part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which was distributed to local governments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The largest portion of the allocated money — $5.75 million — was set to go toward rental assistance. Other chunks were allocated for displacement services and housing preservation of households with eviction filings.

“[These were] emergency funds,” said Vanessa Borg, a volunteer with New Virginia Majority. “Usually an emergency means that there is a really pressing need that you’re responding to quickly,”

Borg said the response has not been quick.

“If you call the police and they show up a year later, it’s not doing you any help. So right now, families are still being evicted and we’re still waiting,” Borg said.

A spokesperson for Loudoun County released a statement in response to the rally:

Loudoun County is aware of the rental assistance needs in the community and we are fortunate that the county received ARPA funding to support this need and that the Board of Supervisors approved the use of a limited amount of available funding to assist our residents. County staff is working as quickly as possible in a collaborative manner to streamline the availability of resources to the public.

Additionally, the statement explains that the county needs to hire a third-party contractor to assist with the rental assistance distribution. However, due to “a few unanticipated administrative hurdles,” the county has yet to post the Request for Proposal — an advertisement — for that contractor.

The final draft of the RFP is “in hand,” the spokesperson said, though it remains unclear when it will get posted.
The department is “optimistic” a contractor will be selected, and the board will vote to approve it, in September, allowing the money to be distributed in the fall.

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