COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Missouri Housing Development Commission announced a new program, the Missouri Emergency Rental Arrears Program, which will provide assistance to property owners and renters in Missouri who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioners are planning to use $15 million of its $28 million CARES Act funding for the program.
It will allow for a one-time payment for up to six months of past-due rent. The eligible beginning period for filing was April 1. The payment will go to the landlord on behalf of the tenant.
Landlords must agree to not file any evictions up to 120 days from the date of the initial application and waive all outstanding fees and rent prior to the application date. Payment from the assistance can’t be applied to any fees or utilities.
The program will have some qualification factors in order to apply for assistance. Tenants applying must not be receiving any other assistance for the same costs. They also must show proof that their inability to pay rent was affected by the pandemic.
Households that apply must also make under 50 percent of the area median income at the time of the application. The household income will be calculated from the average income of the household over the previous 30 days from all household members over the age of 18.
Government payments such as social security, pensions, unemployment assistance, alimony, child support and disability will be calculated and considered as a part of the household income.
The assistance program will pay a maximum amount depending on the type of household; studio $712, one-bedroom $854, two-bedroom $1,027, three-bedroom $1,380, and four-bedroom $1,565.
The latest Missouri unemployment data said 8,584 state residents filed first-time claims on the week of Thanksgiving.
Major Curtiss Hartley, the Regional Coordinator for Mid Missouri Salvation Army, says they’ve been seeing more families asking for help with their rent and utilities. “From the beginning of this COVID crisis we’ve begin to see more families coming to us of course with a financial need as the job market began to be a difficulty and folks were facing all kinds of hardships. Obviously, the Salvation Army and other food pantries are able to help provide food to help families get by, but things like rent and utilities, in particular, were some issues that have created a lot of concern for folks.”
Major Curtiss says Cole County has provided the Salvation Army with a grant of $25,000 that they will use to help citizens with their rent and utilities. “Cole County has helped us. In fact just recently, in Jefferson City with a $25,000 grant to provide specifically utility and rent assistance to families who have proven COVID-related issues. So we have so far have already spent about 60 thousand dollars in the last 6 months or so to help with rent and utilities specifically.” says Major Curtiss.
Major Curtiss says he wants everyone to know there is funding available and the Salvation Army is here to help. “There are a whole lot more folks in our neighborhood that find themselves some of them for the first time ever in financial difficulty and they don’t even know where to turn so that’s why we’re just anxious to get the word out that the Salvation Army is here that we have funds available and that we are doing our best to help in those particular areas of rent and utilities especially.”, he explains.
The Salvation Army website offers different options for people to receive financial help on their website.
Randy Cole, the City of Columbia’s Housing Program Manager, said he’s never received this many calls about assistance being needed in the almost 10 years he’s been there. He explained Columbia has a few assistance programs in place and they are looking to fund other nonprofits to help with rent assistance. He recommends citizens looking for assistance to start with calling the Voluntary Action Center. “Reach out to the Voluntary Action Center directly and they can help with rent assistance or refer to a different organization that may be a more appropriate fit.”, said Cole. He says there is a meeting on Friday to discuss where more funding can go to help citizens with their rent and utilities.
The Missouri Emergency Renters Arrears Program will open the online applications in January.