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Honolulu reopens rent relief program

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    Honolulu, HI (KITV) — Caitlin Sabado was on furlough from the Hilton Hawaiian Village for about a year starting in March 2020.

By the fall, her bills were backed up, leaving her desperate. Her husband also works in the tourism industry, but his hours were reduced and they have a young daughter to worry about.

The City and County of Honolulu’s rent relief program reopened Monday for the third time for families financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

About $170 million is provided by the federal government and the city’s prepared to accept about 10,000 applications.

There are income limits — a household of four cannot earn more than $63,000 a year. People can also qualify if they’ve been unemployed for at least 90 days.

Sabado’s proof a program like this works.

Between September and December, her family received about $1,400 per month from the state’s rental relief program.

“A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I didn’t have to worry — at least for a little while,” she said. “Rent is expensive everywhere on Oahu so it was critical and it was a blessing that this program was there for me.”

Sabado is now helping other people in need get help. She recently took a job with the hotel workers’ union, “Unite Here Local 5,” processing applications for the city program. She says some families are a year behind in rent.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of people that may be struggling where they are on the verge of losing their homes,” Sabado said.

Amy Asselbaye, executive director of the city’s Office of Economic Revitalization, says about 80% of the families receiving assistance earn less than $40,000 a year.

“So we really want to get them to help to pay their landlord, to pay off their electric or water or gas bill and just give them some peace of mind that these things can be covered and they can worry about the other things in life,” Asselbaye said.

Asselbaye estimates a four-week turnaround time for qualifying applicants to be able to pay their bills.

“We don’t want people waiting, that’s why we staged the timing of the portal reopening so people can get relief in a timely way,” she said.

The city’s “Rent and Utility Relief” program will reopen every month until money runs out and the city asks that only one person apply per household.

Go to oneoahu.org/renthelp to apply.

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