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Clark County housing aid program demand high as portal launches

Clark County is projecting more than half of the federal funding available for its $50 million housing assistance program has already been accounted for, a spokesperson said Thursday.

Before the CARES Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) portal launched Oct. 15, as a site dedicated specifically for the aid effort, the program served 3,800 households at a cost of roughly $12 million, county spokesman Erik Pappa said.

Since the portal went online, there have been another 4,700 applications for assistance, projecting to cost about $20 million if all were to qualify, Pappa said. With $50 million at its disposal to start, and about $32 million accounted for, the program figures to have roughly $18 million left, or enough to serve approximately 6,300 more households, Pappa added.

The figures are not finalized, as applications are still being processed and some applicants will inevitably not qualify for the program, but the numbers do provide a fairly reliable snapshot of the demand, according to Pappa.

County officials launched the CARES Housing Assistance Program in the summer, earmarking $30 million from the federal CARES Act. Last month, it secured another $20 million for the aid effort in federal funding provided by the state.

The program provides funding directly to a landlord, mortgage company or utility company on behalf of qualified, pandemic-affected applicants.

On Thursday, the county said it is using artificial intelligence to prescreen residents for qualification in a collaboration with IBM.

Using a suite of IBM services, the county’s CHAP portal features use of a “dynamic AI virtual agent” to ask questions and it allows county employees to process applications remotely, according to a joint statement by the county and IBM.

“We had a profound need to immediately address an unprecedented number of claims and, on top of that, navigate the issue that most of our government services were not open to the public and the staff processing assistance claims were forced to work in remote environments,” Schiller said in the statement.

The portal enables residents to apply for the program, track applications using different web browsers and mobile and tablet platforms, as well as upload documents.

“Clark County moved quickly to support its most vulnerable residents – many of whom were facing eviction. The CHAP platform, leveraging IBM AI and Cloud technology, provides a model for rapidly closing a critical gap to help support people when they need it most,” said Dave Liederbach, the general Manager for Health and Human Services, IBM Watson Health, in the statement.

For more information about the program, and to apply, visit CHAP.ClarkCountyNV.gov or HelpHopeHome.org.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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