County to dole out $4.2 million in federal funds to people who lose their homes

As many as 1,300 struggling families in Clark County will receive federal stimulus money to keep utilities turned on or help pay for a rental unit after losing a house to foreclosure.

County commissioners today approved a plan to dispense a one-time $4.2 million federal grant aimed at preventing homelessness.

The money is geared toward those who have had stable housing for at least a year and who are now teetering on homelessness, perhaps because they were laid off or fell behind on rent or mortgage payments.

“It’s for people who don’t have a lot of money but have been (financially) stable for the past year,” said Nancy McLane, the county’s social services director, in a phone interview. “Now some catastrophe has happened, and they need help.”

The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program also would help with moving expenses.

Money should begin flowing to the impoverished by November and last until mid-2012, county officials said.

The county received $2.6 million directly from the federal government and will get an additional $900,000 funneled from the state. North Las Vegas received $678,000. The county has agreed to oversee all funding for the Las Vegas Valley.

Because the money goes for prevention, it won’t offset the $7 million the state Legislature took from social programs that aid people already homeless, McLane said. But by keeping people housed, it will ease the growing strain on social services, she said.

Residents who qualify for financial aid will be assigned case managers who will monitor and advise them for up to 18 months, making this program different from ones that act as a quick fix, McLane said. A case manager might suggest that clients enroll in job training, drug rehabilitation or mental health services, she said.

A couple of commissioners questioned whether the open-ended approach would create a financial crutch that would discourage people from bettering their situations.

“This seems more like a handout rather than a hand-up,” Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said.

The money should be spread among as many people as possible instead of being concentrated in the hands of a relatively small segment, Weekly said.

Mike Pawlak, a finance department analyst, said applicants will receive just enough money to sustain them until they rebound. Few people should need aid beyond nine months, he said.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said she is pleased the grant will keep many families off the street but is disappointed that it can’t be used to help people pay their mortgages.

The grant is only for people who have been evicted or foreclosed on, so it’s not truly a preventive measure, she said.

“That’s the sad part of it,” Giunchigliani said.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at or 702-455-4519.