Thanks to a new program funded by the Department of Housing and Community Development, people at risk of facing eviction or foreclosure in the local area due to conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic may have help staying in their homes.
Solutions That Empower People, Inc. (STEP) has been designated to distribute federal assistance to those with housing challenges who are eligible on behalf of the Continuum of Care, a coalition of local agencies with the mission to address the needs of homeless people in the area.
The Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program was announced in June by Gov. Ralph Northam in a press release. According to the release, $50 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding will be distributed throughout the state via a variety of partner agencies.
Individuals and families receiving funding will also be connected to housing counseling and receive other technical assistance. Eligible households must demonstrate an inability to make rent or mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Monthly rent or mortgage must be at or below 150% Fair Market Rent, and eligible households must have a gross household income at or below 80% of area median income.
Depending on availability of funds and household need, the RMRP may provide financial assistance for rent or mortgage payments for eligible households, according to STEP Executive Director Sammi Rader. This includes financial assistance for rent or mortgage payments past due beginning April 1, 2020 and onward.
Financial assistance is a one-time payment with opportunity for renewal based on availability of funding and the household’s need for additional assistance and continued eligibility.
“This is such a difficult time. STEP is happy to serve the community and the COC by helping to alleviate hardships to families. Stable housing is the foundation for creating sustainable communities,” Rader said.
The RMRP will provide financial assistance on behalf of renters and mortgage holders who meet the following criteria.
n Have a valid lease or mortgage statement in their name or other documentation confirming the landlord-tenant relationship; and
n Have experienced a loss of income due to the coronavirus pandemic including but not limited to:
n Those who have been laid off;
n Those whose place of employment has closed;
n Those who have experienced a reduction in hours of work;
n Those who must stay home to care for children due to closure of day care and/or school;
n Those who have lost child or spousal support;
n Those who have not been able to work or missed hours due to contracting COVID-19;
n Those who have been unable to find work due to COVID-19; or
n Those whose are unwilling or unable to participate in their previous employment due to their high risk of severe illness from COVID-19; and
n Have a rent or mortgage amount that is at or below 150% Fair Market Rent
n Have a gross household income at or below 80% Area Medium Income (based on current month’s income).
From June 29 through July 20, programs will prioritize households with a current gross household income at or below 50% AMI.
The determination of income includes any unemployment insurance received by a member of the household but does not include one-time payments such as a stimulus check.
To determine if they are eligible for assistance, individuals can conduct a self-assessment at dhcd.virginia.gov/eligibility.
To apply, contact STEP’s supportive services office at 276-638-8311 or 483-5142.