Within hours of Honolulu launching its new $114 million rent and utility fund, the city hit its application limit and stopped accepting new applicants, the city announced on Monday afternoon.

Low-income Honolulu residents who have been financially impacted by the pandemic were able to apply for relief at oneoahu.org/renthelp starting at noon. But there were so many people in apparent need that the city almost immediately hit the maximum number of applications it is accepting in this first round of funding: 8,000.

The city announced the closure of the application portal just before 4 p.m.

The temporary halt will allow the city’s nonprofit partners to process and approve the applications they’ve already received and start issuing payments to landlords and utility providers, the mayor’s office said.

“It will also allow the city time to assess if funds are being distributed equitably to those most in need,” the office said in a statement.

The application portal will be reopened but the city said it isn’t clear when.

The federally funded program requires applicants to show financial harm from the pandemic, such as qualifying for unemployment, and demonstrate that at least one household member is at risk of losing their housing.

Qualifying applicants must meet income limits. For this first round of relief, the city is serving only those who make 50% or less than the area median income, which would be less than $44,100 for an individual and below $62,950 for a family of four.

Priority will be given to applicants with a household member who has been unemployed for at least 90 days at the time of application and is still unemployed at the time of application.

“This is substantial,” Blangiardi said at a virtual press conference on Monday morning. “It’s really going to work to help those families most in need. That’s our intention right now.”

For households that qualify, the program will pay:

  • Up to $2,500 a month in rent and utility arrears going back to March 2020
  • Up to $2,000 for future rent payments
  • Up to $500 a month for future electric, water and sewer, and gas bills

Benefits will be provided for up to 12 months and will be paid directly to the landlord or utility. The program will not assist people behind on their mortgage payments, the city said.

Two nonprofits, Catholic Charities Hawaii and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, will administer the program. In addition, the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Sony Group Corporation are each chipping in $100,000 to the fund.

Officials said on Monday morning that applications would be processed in groups of 8,000. In the second round, the program will accept applications from households making 80% of the area median income and below.

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