ASHEVILLE – Almost $8 million in federal dollars is coming to Buncombe County to help those who qualify to pay for rent and utilities after the county Board of Commissioners voted to approve the grant at its Jan. 3 meetings.
The county has already spent around $19.5 million in grant money on housing assistance over the past few years, but money from those programs largely dried up in September, when the county was forced to stop its rental assistance program, according to a presentation given to commissioners by the county’s Health and Human Services Economic Services Division Director Phillip Hardin.
The new $8 million comes from the North Carolina Pandemic Recovery Office, which manages funds given to the state from federal COVID-19 pandemic relief programs, and will restart the program.
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“Our hope would be, if the budget amendment is approved, that we would start taking applications again tomorrow. We have had a number of people who have just been kind of waiting for us,” Hardin said at the meeting. “We kind of knew these dollars sat there, so I mean, people have been calling almost on a weekly basis to say, ‘Have you received the dollars yet?'”
To qualify, renters have to make less than or equal to 80% of the area average income, which for a one-person household is $3,750 per month or $45,000 per year, and for a two-person household is $4,283 per month or $51,400 per year, Hardin told the Citizen Times ahead of the Jan. 3 meetings. Renters also need to be county residents and to be able to prove they faced financial hardship during the COVID-19, he said.
Contracted case workers, who will also be paid for with the grant money, will be assigned to renters seeking assistance, and these case workers will be the ones deciding whether or not the renter faced financial hardship, Hardin said. Financial hardship examples, he said, include job loss, salary cut, medical bills or a broken-down car.
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Proof of rent owed or contact information for the renter’s landlord will also be needed to apply, Hardin said. To apply, renters can call 828-250-5500 and say they want to apply for rent or utility assistance. A caseworker will then call them back and go over the application with them, he said.
In addition to the five case workers, three temporary accounting technicians will also be funded through the grant, which allows only 5% of the total amount to go towards administrative fees. The technicians will process the payments and invoices, Hardin said.
Previous housing assistance programs helped more than 6,500 people with average payments of around $5,000, Hardin said. Those programs, according to Hardin, include:
- Community Development Block Grant:
- $825,000 originally granted with $366,000 remaining.
- Must be spent by January 2024.
- Has helped 182 people.
- Is focused primarily on mortgage payments.
- Granted by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in August 2021.
- Emergency Rental Assistance One:
- $7.8 million originally granted with $0 remaining.
- Was required to be spent by Sept. 30, 2022.
- Helped 2,668 people.
- Received directly from the US Treasury in January 2021.
- Emergency Rental Assistance Two:
- $6.1 million originally granted with $0 remaining.
- Was required to be spent by Sept. 30, 2025.
- Helped 2,112 people.
- Received directly from the US Treasury in May 2021.
- Emergency Rental Assistance NCPRO One:
- $5.1 million originally granted with $0 remaining.
- Was required to be spent by Sept. 30, 2022.
- Helped 1,733 people.
- Granted by the state’s Pandemic Recovery Office.
- The county was forced to return around $1 million after not spending it all by the deadline.
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The new grant approved on Jan. 3, named the Emergency Rental Assistance NCPRO Two, is expected to be spent within 15 months and will be the last grant of its kind given to the county, Hardin said.
Christian Smith is the general assignment reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times. Questions or comments? Contact him at RCSmith@gannett.com or 828-274-2222