"Due to budget reductions stemming from the sequester, we are suspending our waiting list until further notice," said Faye Anderson, authority director. "We will continue to provide assistance to those individuals and families who are currently in the program, however."
Anderson said concerns about funding current applicants and paying administrative costs for the office as well as the inability to take on new individuals and families - including the disabled and elderly - prompted her to call the authority's Albuquerque field office for help.
"They recommended we temporarily suspend the waiting list," Anderson said. "It's very sad and disheartening, but we don't want to give false hope to any families currently seeking assistance."
The authority employs a paid staff of two - Anderson and a housing specialist - plus an unpaid intern to handle the nearly 100 new applications it receives on average each week.
Currently, 244 individuals and families are supported with financial assistance to pay for rental payments through the authority, Anderson said.
Each January, Anderson said the waiting list is purged, often ridding the list of over 1,000 hopeful applicants. She said the purge was just completed Feb. 1, but nearly 450 new hopefuls were accepted on the waiting list since then.
Though the authority operates from the county building on South Oliver, the program is not county-run, said Kim Carpenter, the county's chief executive officer.
"It's an entirely federally funded program," Carpenter said. "We're just the host."
Each month, the finance department submits a request for an average payment of about $90,000.
Carpenter saw the program was in jeopardy when sequestration occurred on March 1 because of an immediate cut to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development budget, which funds the housing authority.
"Unfortunately, there are a lot of families with needs that will be affected by this," Carpenter said. "We're just not sure yet whether these cuts will be long- or short-term, but we don't want to continue taking applications from people and give them the idea that there's funding available for them."
James Fenton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 564-4621. Follow him on Twitter @fentondt.