County to Receive $16.7 Million for Emergency COVID-19 Rental Assistance
Written by Kristen Schmutz
Belden Communications News
Volusia County is line to receive more than $16 million in federal aid, to assist residents with paying their rent due to financial fall-out from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
On Tuesday, the County Council approved the new coronavirus aid initiative by giving it to the county’s Community Services staff to launch the grant program once the money is received.
According to a release, last year, the county allocated $27.5 million of its federal coronavirus relief funds for rent and mortgage assistance to Volusia County residents. So far, a total of 7,974 applications for assistance have been approved.
Although requests are still being processed, the deadline to apply expired on Dec. 30.
While approving the program Tuesday, the council also authorized the hiring of up to 15 temporary county employees to help manage the program and process the rental assistance applications.
The positions – a program manager, two supervisors, nine caseworkers, two accounting specialists, and one staff assistant – will be paid for out of the grant funds and will be vacated when the program ends.
The program will target people earning at or below 80% of the area median income, or AMI, with preference given to those at 50% or below the AMI.
To qualify for assistance, one or more members of a household must have qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due either directly or indirectly to the coronavirus outbreak. Additionally, one or more people in the household must be able to demonstrate a risk of homelessness or housing instability. Landlords will be able to apply on behalf of their tenants who meet the eligibility requirements as long as the tenant co-signs the application.
Community Services Director Dona Butler told council members that underemployment can be a critical challenge for many.
“That can make a big difference,” said Butler. “You might not have lost your job entirely, but you may have had your hours cut in half or you relocated to another job that just doesn’t pay you what you were being paid before.”
In addition to rent assistance, the program also will provide financial help for utilities and home energy costs or other expenses related to housing. Households will be able to receive up to a year of assistance but must be recertified every three months to continue receiving aid. In addition to the grant funds, caseworkers also will be trained to refer clients to other community resources for which they might qualify.
The county hopes to have the program up and running on March 1.
The public will be notified how and where to apply and the required documentation once the program is ready to accept applications. The county plans to produce a training video to teach clients how to submit an online application.
“It’s going to be challenging because there’s going to be a lot of folks that want assistance,” said Butler.
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