NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The Emergency Rental Assistance Program, designed to help people with rent relief and utility assistance during COVID, could be ending fairly soon. According to the state’s website, the program has officially stopped accepting applications as of January 1.

The money, coming from the federal government under the Federal CARES Act, is running out for the program. A program that has always had an expiration date. “Now that everybody should be back to work, we should start engaging those people in, ‘how are you going to come back to work? How are you going to get back in the workforce?'” Sen. George Muñoz said.

In a matter of almost two years, the program has forked out nearly $215 million to more than 57,000 households across New Mexico. But with the program up in the air because of funding coming to an end, it’s now up to the state in this coming legislative session to decide whether to continue funding the program or not.

Senator Muñoz says the most vulnerable people are who the state should be focusing on first and foremost. “I think we need to continue it in some way, shape, or form, but it needs to be very detailed,” Muñoz says. “How do we help the single mother that is living in a rented house, paying utilities, and may have one or two kids she’s trying to put through school while she’s working?”

The state is expecting an extra $3.5 billion in new money for this fiscal year’s budget. There’s a good chance some form of rental assistance or this program could be a part of that spending. “We need to take a hard look and say is this [is] a need in the state of New Mexico; that we need to continue or to put money into for a longer period of time,” says Muñoz.

While applications for this program are closed, the governor’s office says they’re continuing to accept information from people in need of emergency assistance. They’ll help connect those with community partners and other avenues to keep families afloat.

According to the state’s website, this change is only for renters. Homeowners’ assistance will remain available.