HONOLULU (KHON2) — Tens of millions of dollars could be coming to Oahu families struggling with their rent and utility bills. This comes as the deadline for new applications for Section 8 housing nears.

A resolution in the Honolulu City Council calls for $33 million of pandemic-era emergency funds to be earmarked for the popular Rental and Utility Relief Program. Tuesday, Feb. 7, the City Council’s budget committee passed $25 million.

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So far, $206,695,492 in relief has been approved since the program began, giving 15,682 approved Oahu households help with their utilities and rent. It provides those who qualify with up to $2,500 a month for hardships dating back to March 13, 2020.

“These are families, generally, who they’re having a hard time meeting their household budget.,” Honolulu Office of Economic Revitalization Director Amy Asselbaye said. “At the same time, we know there’s inflation on a lot of other basic daily living needs, transportation, gas, your food costs at the grocery store. And, so, the mayor felt it was imperative to continue to provide some relief to households.”

The city said it will keep people from facing eviction, which adds to the homeless epidemic.

“The last thing we want to happen to anyone in this program is to be evicted because that goes on your official record and makes it so much harder to find a rental in the future,” Asselbaye said.

The money comes from federal COVID emergency funds; so, this is only a short-term solution to Honolulu’s housing crisis.

Section 8 expansion and the development of more housing inventory are a step toward long-term answers. Pre-applications for Section 8 opened Monday morning, Feb. 6.

“They are accepting 3,000 pre-applications for Section 8 housing vouchers, and that’s available till this Friday at 4:30 pm. This is a longer-term solution for families that do need some support to stay housed. So, we encourage people to also take a look into that,” Asselbaye said.

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The rent and utility relief resolution will now move to a full city council meeting to be held on Feb. 22.