CLEVELAND — In these difficult financial times, thousands of people in our area applied for federal money to help pay their rent. However, some found the program failed on its follow-through. That is until they contacted News 5 Investigators.
Tana Jackson lives in an apartment building in a modest Buckeye neighborhood in Cleveland. She told us she was struggling last year, leaving her unable to pay rent.
“I literally have no clue what I’m going to do,” said Jackson, starting to tear up. “I got it really, really hard… like really hard.”
She was upset because she contacted CHN Housing Partners for rental assistance. At first, it looked promising.
“I was so excited. I was so happy, like literal tears, because I don’t get help with anything,” Jackson told us.
EXCITEMENT TURNED INTO DISAPPOINTMENT
However, tears of joy turned into tears of disappointment because after getting the go-ahead from CHN, plus a date when the check would go out, the money never came.
Jackson sprang into action, calling CHN.
“Nobody’s answering. It’s not like an answering machine no more,” said Jackson. “It’s just like they fell off the face of the Earth.”
Her landlord William Sloan was going to evict Jackson but stopped, “based on (CHN) saying they were going to provide her the financial assistance,” explained Sloan.
Tenant Anthony Laird was looking for rental help as well. He was approved, too. He met us at the office of CHN off Payne Avenue.
“I wanted you to witness what they say,” he told us.
DESPERATE TENANTS JUST WANTED ANSWERS
Sure enough, after walking in with him, we witnessed exactly what the tenants and landlords went through asking for help at the front window.
“There’s nothing she can do and she doesn’t know anything,” said Laird.
“And how does that make you feel?” we asked.
“I get more aggravated every time I come here,” he replied.
CHN RESPONDS TO PROCESS CONFUSION
“It’s a huge program. It’s a huge responsibility,” said Laura Boustani from CHN. She said the federal rental assistance program was based on COVID relief money totaling nearly $100 million. She said they helped 20,000 families over 2.5 years.
However, some people at the very end of the process didn’t submit critical information. “Where (CHN Housing Partners) fell short is where we didn’t communicate back to the client and say you’re missing documents,” said Boustani. “So, that approval notice you got was incorrect.”
Meanwhile, tenants and landlords were left hanging. Jackson held back more tears.
“Confused… yeah, very confused because we’re already going through like a lot. So, why? You know?” she said.
“I’m not looking to change the world. I just want to get paid,” Sloan said.
“We apologize for that,” said Boustani. “We made that mistake.”
CHN 'PROACTIVELY' SEARCHING FOR ANY OTHERS
Boustani told us the rental assistance has ended. There are no new dollars to hand out, but CHN has now assembled a team of people to proactively catch those who might have fallen through the cracks.
“We’re in the business of keeping people in their homes. So, when we find an error we fix it,” she told us. “We are grateful (News 5) brought this to our attention.”
Jackson hopes all others who might be in her same position receive relief, "and everybody gets the help that they need. That’s what I’m praying for,” she said.
After we got involved, Jackson’s landlord has gotten his check and Laird’s case is on the road to being resolved, too.
CHN told us there is one final round of checks that is in the process of going out.
CHN told us it doesn’t want any calls as it searches for any other mistakes. However, if CHN sent you approval and disbursement notices but you didn’t get your money, call our News 5 Investigators’ Tip Line at 216-431-HELP or email us at InvestigatorTips@WEWS.com.