$850 relief fund grants leave long lines of community members needing help

Little Rock residents stood outside of a building for hours waiting for the possibility of receiving free money.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Hundreds of people gathered around the Washington Barber College on 65th Street Friday morning, Dec. 11 after hearing that CARES Act money was being distributed in the amount of $850.

People Trust Community Loan Funds was the community development financial institution, certified by the U.S. Department of Treasury, offering the money. 

They applied for the funds through the Department of Human Services (DHS) for CARES Act funds and were approved Thursday. They started distributing the money then, only to not have left by Friday morning. 

Deishonae Stokes, 18, said she was outside since about 7:30 a.m. When a friend called to tell her about the line, she rushed there, only to find out that loans were no longer being distributed.

“So something’s not adding up, because yesterday they were saying that the funds were gone, but I saw somewhere that they were saying come back tomorrow,” Stokes said. “So I’m trying to figure out how they have funds but they’re gone overnight.”

Arlo Washington is the President of People’s Trust Community Loans. Because they’re a part of the Emergency Solutions Grant with DHS, they were notified of approval for additional funding. Washington wanted to use that additional funding to help individuals on a list that weren’t eligible for their ESG program.

“There were about 200 people that were in the pipeline that we couldn’t fund through the DHS grant,” said Washington. “So those people were the ones that we reached out to, because they needed help. Some homeless or evicted, people with little kids and the disabled.”

Washington said his team told individuals it was unrestricted grant capital, and not a loan. It would come in $850 direct payments per household. 

That same day, additional people started coming in and Washington said he assumed word of mouth got around. 

“We received the funds at like 8 a.m. that morning and by 3 p.m. they were gone.” 

Fast forward 24 hours, Washington and his team couldn’t get inside the building or parking lot with nearly a hundred people in line, slowing down traffic and crowding the area. 

Knowing they were out of funds, they had to get assistance from Little Rock police to keep order. He went on a local radio station to announce that they no longer had any money, but people were still standing outside for any type of help. 

“I’m having to stand down the street blocks away from my business, because there are people posted up in front of the building. We can’t get in. We’re out of funds. There’s a need. A huge need, and if we had more funds we’d be able to disperse more funds.” 

Stokes said that doesn’t help people like her who has lost her job and is struggling. 

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Stokes said. “They’ve cut food stamps off for people. I’ve applied for unemployment. Been filing for two or three weeks and it’s still under decision. There’s people who haven’t had a job since the pandemic started.” 

She said there’s people in much worse situations than hers, but that everybody’s struggling. She said there’s a system working against those who are just trying to survive. 

“I’m 18 coming into the world. Coming into a pandemic. I’m growing up and transitioning into a grownup in the middle of this and nobody’s helping me. Not everybody has parents that have money that can help them through stuff like this.” 

The Department of Commerce has a rental assistance program to help those in need of financial help.