CHEYENNE, Wyo. (KIFI) – Governor Mark Gordon responded this week to a letter from Congressman James Clyburn which misrepresented Wyoming’s efforts in the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).
Congressman Clyburn complained of nationwide underspending by the 426 local governments eligible to administer rental assistance.
“His unwarranted shot places blame for that problem squarely on the shoulders of Wyoming and five other states,” Governor Gordon said. The Governor emphasizes that Wyoming has a strong rental assistance program and is meeting the needs of its people
In his response, the Governor details the unreliable data, arbitrary metrics and false assumptions used by the Congressman to come to his dramatic – but incorrect – conclusions about Wyoming. One data point used by the Congressman is described by its own source, the US Census Bureau, as having “potentially serious data quality issues.”
Between the two federal rental assistance programs, Wyoming was allocated $352 million, a total that exceeds the Department of Family Services’ entire biennial budget. In four months, Wyoming has issued $8.5 million in rental assistance funds to local non-profit organizations, tenants, and landlords, a feat that is unheard of within Wyoming’s social safety net system.
“The $352 million is part of how Wyoming will solve our state’s housing issues, but the program as legislated cannot practically spend that amount on rental and utility assistance alone within the time frames set by Congress, especially in the least-populated state in the nation“ Governor Gordon said. “It’s clear Congressman Clyburn does not understand the issues that matter here in Wyoming, because if he did he would work to help us use those funds to develop affordable housing.”
In his letter, the Congressman ranked Wyoming last in the nation because Wyoming has spent a low proportion of its allocation compared to other states. But, Congress did not base Wyoming’s allocation on Wyoming’s demographics or need. It is wholly improper to rank Wyoming’s performance on the basis of this arbitrary allocation floor set by Congress, the Governor wrote.
“I invite the Congressman to use local data to reassess our program,” the Governor said.
Rather than respond to the Congressman’s specific questions, which the Governor argued were opportunistic, frivolous and based on false premises that served to do nothing more than garner political attention, the Governor’s letter makes suggestions on improvements that could be made at the federal level to support local jurisdictions and increase payment rates.