Greensboro organizations will be receiving a total of $8.7 million to help families and individuals cover rent, utilities and backpay by the end of this month.
The funding comes directly from the US Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which will supplement rental assistance already being distributed by the county.
“We know that there is a huge need out in the community,” Mayor Nancy Vaughan said. “This will help address a small part of that.”
The city of Greensboro applied for the funding and will be distributing the $8.7 million to four community partners: Greensboro Housing Coalition (projected to receive $1.4 million), Greensboro Urban Ministry ($3.1 million), Housing Consultants Group ($811,229) and the Salvation Army of Greensboro ($3.4 million).
Once the city’s program launches at the end of March, eligible residents will be able to receive funding from one of the organizations to help pay for rent or utilities. Those who apply may only do so with one organization and funds will be allocated out on a first come, first serve basis. To be eligible, applicants must have a household income at or below 80 percent of area median income. For a single-person household, applicants would need to make at or less than $37,050. For two people, less than $42,350; for three, $47,650 and for four, at or less than $52,900. One or more individuals in the household must qualify for unemployment or have experienced a reduction in income, or experienced financial hardship because of the pandemic. Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability as well.
Currently, individuals who live in Guilford County but not within city limits have the opportunity to apply for emergency rental assistance funding through the county, which received a little over $7.3 million from the program. With additional funds approved by the county commission, a total of $8 million became available for rental assistance starting on Feb. 8. Since opening up the application process, the county has received 434 applications, with all but 72 of them approved for some funding, according to county commission Chairman Skip Alston. As of Feb. 26, the county had given out $163,561 in rental assistance funds and $52,845 for utilities assistance.
“We are getting them in as fast as possible,” Alston said on Monday. “People are very excited. We are happy to be in a position to be able to help. At this rate, we should be able to continue for about two to three more months. We’re going to keep it going until we spend all of this money that we have allocated for this.”
Both the county and the city received federal funding from the CARES Act last year for rental assistance. Caitlin Bowers, the community development analyst for the city of Greensboro, said the city received a little more than $700,000 in August 2020 through the CARES Act, which went to the Greensboro Housing Coalition. That funding helped about 900 households receive rent or utility assistance, with the maximum amount allotted set at $1,900 per household.
Renée Norris, deputy director of the Greensboro Housing Coalition, said about 55 percent of CARES Act funding has been spent. However, because the amount of funds from Treasury Department is much greater, Bowers said that they hope to be able to serve more households or provide more funds per household with this incoming funding. She estimates that compared to the $1,900 maximum allowed through the CARES Act, a more realistic amount of funding would be about $5,500 per household on average.
At the county level, Alston said that all of the CARES Act funding has been spent, but hopes that if a proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-relief stimulus package is passed soon, that local governments will receive additional rental assistance funding in the near future.
“It’s very important,” Alston said. “This is a safety net for some people who really would have hit rock bottom and would have had to be on government subsidies for quite a while, but this has allowed them to keep families together, to keep food on their tables, and it helps the local economy to stay stimulated.”
Norris, with the Greensboro Housing Coalition, said her agency has seen a huge increase in need since the start of the pandemic.
“We have received thousands of applications and we’re just a small nonprofit in Greensboro,” she said. “We were getting calls from people throughout the county…. A lot of these people became unemployed at the beginning of this pandemic or they had their hours reduced. Some people have had a serious reduction in income or lost income totally. Some are still facing an enormous backlog for rent or utilities.”
Those who qualify for emergency rental assistance, either through the county or the city, will be able to spend it on backpay for rent or utilities or current and future rent and utilities. Utilities include gas, electricity, water and sewer, trash removal, and energy costs such as fuel oil, according to the Treasury Department.
Bowers said the new funding for the city comes at just the right time because the CDC moratorium on evictions ends at the end of March.
“The funding is important because it’s not only helping people in the short term to be able to stay in their homes, but also should be able to ensure housing stability for these households,” Bowers said. “This timing is going to help a lot of households. We will be able to capture the people who are in the in-between.”
Mayor Vaughan encouraged renters to communicate with their landlords about plans to apply for funding if they’re currently struggling to make payments.
“It’s really important that people communicate with their landlords and their utility providers,” Vaughan said. “Most are being really flexible, but if you don’t communicate, that makes things harder on you in the end.”
To learn more about how to receive rental assistance through the city, visit here. or call the Greensboro Housing Coalition at 336-691-9521. Those living in the county should visit here or call (336) 641-3000 for further information. For more details about ERAP, visit here.