More than $100 million sitting unspent in program meant to help pay rent, utilities

A program designed to quickly pay rent and utility bills for people financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic has struggled to get money out the door.

The HOPE Grant program was announced by N.C. Governor Roy Cooper in October. By giving money to qualified applicants to pay rent, organizers hoped to help people struggling financially stay in this homes and also help landlords who depend on rental income.

On Thursday, Cooper and State Budget Director Charlie Perusse touted the program as a success in a press conference unveiling the governor’s budget proposal for this year.

“The HOPE Program that the Governor mentioned is a leader in the country. We were actually out in front of the federal government on this,” Perusse said of the program.

“The program received about $200 million in requests and we currently have gotten out about $125 million of that.”

But the program has spent less than half that amount, according to the agency administering the program…