Rent assistance fund pays $2.4 million in error

Data Desk

DENVER (KDVR) — Quickly implemented emergency programs have their drawbacks.

The Colorado Office of the State Auditor released a report Oct. 26 on one of the state’s emergency COVID rental assistance programs, the Property Ownership Preservation program.

According to the report, the POP program paid an estimated $2.39 million in error out of the $47.13 million it distributed.

The POP program was one of five in the state intended to relieve rent and mortgage payments for people who lost work due to COVID restrictions.

The program was unique in that it asked property managers to submit claims instead of renters.

This 5% error, the office said, is the tradeoff for the program’s speed. As emergency programs prioritize getting people paid quickly, accuracy suffers.

U.S. Federal Emergency Management Authority funds had similar problems following Hurricane Katrina. More recently and locally, COVID unemployment programs in Colorado ended up paying out $52 million in fraudulent claims or overpaid claims.

The audit analyzed 62 payments for a statistical snapshot of how well it performed.

Of 62 cases, ten overpaid in some way. In four cases, the Colorado Division of Housing Stability failed to get renter’s agreements before it paid rent to property managers, and in 17 cases the division failed to send timely letters to renters filling them in on the payment.

In nearly half of the cases, the division forgot to send letters at all.

The POP program and similar state programs were given $94 million over the course of the pandemic.

A third of that funding came from CARES Act dollars from the federal government. Most of the remaining funding came from the state’s general fund.

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