NORTH CAROLINA — As the pandemic continues to impact the US economy, North Carolina’s most recent revenue forecast shows that the state is actually better off than most — with approximately $5 billion in unreserved funds sitting in the state’s budget.

Today, local leaders from across North Carolina sent a letter to Governor Roy Cooper asking him to take immediate action and allocate $2.4 billion to rent relief in his budget proposal.

“So many families are in desperate need to help pay utilities and rent because of the disparities around the pandemic. This would be one great way to help communities and to make water utilities whole as we also struggle with water utility issues in low wealth communities,” said Pam Hemminger, Mayor of Chapel Hill.

According to a September 2020 analysis by the National Council of State Housing Agencies, as many as 410,000 North Carolinians were unable to pay their rent, representing an estimated rent shortfall of $824 million by January 2021. While the exact amount varies, policy experts estimate that renters owe tens of billions of dollars in back rent nationwide.

“We have so many individuals and families suffering in our community. Rent relief would make a tangible benefit that would help our entire local economy recover better and faster, rather than having so many weighed down by debt with no place to live.” said Jennifer Weaver, Mayor of Hillsborough.

“Housing is a public health issue and we know that rental assistance and the prevention of evictions and homelessness have saved lives during this pandemic. Keeping our families, children and adults housed is fundamental to well being for everyone in our community. The eviction crisis and urgent need for increased funding for rental assistance must continue to a funding priority as we recover from the impacts of COVID 19.” said Wendy Jacobs, Vice Chair of the Durham County Commission.

The letter was signed by more than two dozen local elected officials across the state who are all members of Local Progress.

The letter echoes sentiment shared by House Dem representatives who have proposed House Bill 192 to invest the state’s unreserved funds in communities, small businesses, and essential workers.