Voicemail system overwhelmed after launch of S.C. program to assist renters

Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 5:50 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Help is on the way for people struggling to pay rent or to pay down past due rent. SC Housing launched its SC Stay program Thursday night and was overwhelmed with applicants.

“Our hotline is open from nine to five, Monday through Friday to help folks get their applications, and if all the operators are busy, you’re asked to leave a voicemail. Well that voicemail system was overwhelmed yesterday,” Chris Winston with SC Housing said. “Some people thought the number was wrong, so we are getting that fixed up today.”

The number was not wrong, the program was just inundated with calls making it difficult to get through and the mailbox quickly filled up. Winston says they had more than 8,600 people apply for the program the day it launched.

The program allows qualified people to apply for six months’ worth of rent or up to $7,500. If approved, SC Housing will send the money directly to the applicant’s landlord or mortgage provider.

“Nobody needs to be worried about an eviction right now, which hurts your ability to find your next place to live,” Winston said. “During a pandemic is not the time you want people to have to try and live with friends and family members while we’re trying to stay socially distant.”

SC housing has $25 million dollars its prepared to give out, which equates to about 3,300 people who can be helped. Winston says he is hopefully not every applicant will need the maximum of $7,500. He says they need to make this money go as far as possible.

“Experts have projected there could be as many as 100,000 South Carolinians who are at risk of eviction when the CDC moratorium expires. Right now that’s at the end of March,” Winston said.

SC Stay is an off shoot of a similar program last fall organized by SC Thrive. They had less money but were able to help keep South Carolinians in their homes. Since the end of that program, SC Housing has been taking names, phone numbers and emails in preparations for Thursday’s roll out.

That call list is one of the reasons why so many people filled the phone lines yesterday trying to get through. Winston says applications will be filled on a first come, first served basis.

“While $25 million may sound like a lot, we do expect it to go quickly,” Winston said. “While these funds may be exhausted, if people get their applications in, it gives us a head start for if additional funding becomes available.”

To view all of the qualifications and to apply you can call (833) 985-2929 or visit the SC Housing website.

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