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Leaders extend Joe Brown Park rental, utility assistances to accommodate need

People line outside Joe Brown Park in New Orleans East seeking federal assistance for past-due...
People line outside Joe Brown Park in New Orleans East seeking federal assistance for past-due utility bills and rent not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic but Hurricane Ida as well.(WVUE)
Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 3:56 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - For a second day, lines wrapped around Joe Brown Park with people seeking help paying past-due rent and utility bills. The city says they opened applications for utility and rental assistance.

“I feel very uncomfortable,” said Pamela Alexander. “I feel that I’m not being treated fairly.”

“This whole ordeal has been very, very hard on me,” adds Deborah Norman. The 70-year-old is in line hoping to get assistance from FEMA for back-due rent following Hurricane Ida. “The beginning of this month, I didn’t have the rent [because] I was using the money to buy gas and different stuff like that, but my landlord still required it. I had to borrow the money. That’s why I’m trying to get some rental assistance to see if I can make it through.”

She along with others are in line attempting to see if they will qualify for funding from the U.S. Department of Treasury. The fund is set aside for eligible residents, including families facing evictions or loss of utility services due to COVID-19. But the Mayor’s Housing Policy Director Marjorianna Willman says each case is different and will see if applicants qualify for federal aid.

“Even though Ida may have pushed them behind there still may be some COVID related issues there,” Willman said. “We look at each case individually and will determine eligibility based on that.”

Willman is running against the clock as she tries to qualify renters before Governor John Bel Edwards’ eviction ban ends Friday. She’s also trying to work with landlords, “and we’re urging them not to evict their tenants. Urging them that we are making funds available for that bulk payment. It’s coming and so we’re asking that they do not move forward with any eviction notices.”

Austin Badon, the Clerk of First of City Court, says for some landlords this will be the first time they’re able to file evictions.

“The landlords have not been paid their money in well over a year and a half,” Badon said. “Landlords have had to bear a huge burden.”

The city will reopen the facility at Joe Brown Park (5601 Read Blvd) Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. However, people do not need to go to the park to fill out applications. You can apply at Ready.Nola.gov or visit in-person at 1340 Poydras, across from City Hall.

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