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Letter: Faith leaders respond to North Dakota returning rental assistance funds

A letter signed by 28 North Dakota faith leaders urges the state to ensure residents can access the funds and put them to use for the purpose they were intended.

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It was disheartening to read that the state of North Dakota has decided to return to the federal government almost $150 million in rental support provided through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

The past two years have been extremely difficult for our families, friends and neighbors. North Dakotans have felt the pain of lost loved ones, health crises, lost jobs and isolation, like millions of others in countries around the world.

Many of our neighbors, after losing their source of income, have also lost their shelter because they could no longer pay the rent. Landlords have suffered because of lost income, while expenses have continued. The rental assistance program was created by the federal government for states to implement, so that we could keep these families as whole as possible in the face of this pandemic. With one winter storm system after another hitting North Dakota, this support is truly a life or death situation.

As faith leaders across North Dakota, we encourage our elected officials at the state and federal levels to do everything in their power to ensure North Dakota can access the funds we need and put them to use for the purpose they were intended – to help those in need of this critical support. We also encourage our state leaders to examine the various components of the rental program to ensure roadblocks are not preventing renters and landlords from accessing needed assistance.

Just this past December, many North Dakotans celebrated an event that took place centuries ago when a young family was searching for shelter during a challenging time in their lives. The mother was due to give birth.

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Let us keep the meaning of that event in our minds and in our hearts as we strive to better care for those at risk of losing shelter in these difficult times.

The above letter was signed by the following North Dakota faith leaders:

  • Bishop Craig A. Schweitzer, Western North Dakota Synod ELCA
  • Rev. Deborah J. Blood, Northern Plains Conference United Church of Christ
  • The Rev’d Canon Hal Weidman, George’s Episcopal Memorial Church, Bismarck
  • Sister Kathleen Atkinson, Ministry on the Margins, Bismarck
  • Rev. Gretchen Deeg, Bismarck United Church of Christ, Bismarck
  • Rev. Tammy Toepke-Floyd, Jamestown 1st Congregational United Church of Christ
  • Rev. Marty Toepke-Floyd, First United Methodist Church, Jamestown
  • Rev. Beth Walch, Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Bismarck
  • Rev. Sylvia Bull, Faith Lutheran Church, Bismarck
  • Pastor Joe Larson, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Fargo
  • Pastor Martin Avery, Mayville Gran Lutheran Churches
  • Vicky Vetter, student ministry director, Legacy UMC, Bismarck
  • Rev. Julie A. K. Anderson, Good Shepherd Lutheran, Bismarck
  • Rev. Susan Haukaas, Trinity Lutheran Church, Jamestown
  • Deacon Alexandra Benson, Heart River Lutheran Church, Mandan
  • Rev. Kyle Symanski, Our Savior's Lutheran Church, Valley City
  • Rev. Janel Kolar, First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Dickinson
  • Rev. Derek Harkins, Faith Lutheran Church, Bismarck
  • The Rev John Floberg, Standing Rock Episcopal Congregations in Selfridge, Ft. Yates and Cannon Ball
  • Rev. Gail Hagerty, Heart River Lutheran Church, Mandan
  • Rev. Kevin Cassiday-Maloney, First Congregational UCC, Fargo
  • Rev. Phil Leer, First Lutheran Church of Mandan
  • Rev. Brandon Vetter, Legacy United Methodist Church, Bismarck
  • Rev. Leanne Simmons, First Presbyterian Church, Bismarck
  • Rev. Karen Van Fossan, Green Sanctuary Program of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Fargo
  • Rev. Canon Zanne Ness, Ministry on the Margins, Bismarck
  • Rev. Mark Narum, Trinity Lutheran Church, Bismarck
  • Angie Kutzer, director of discipleship and outreach, First Lutheran Church of Mandan

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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