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When Charleston renters could see $12 million in COVID-19 assistance

Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 4:30 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County has a little under seven months to distribute the majority of $12 million federal dollars in rental, landlord and utility assistance for people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Charleston Deputy County Administrator Christine DuRant says they hope to open applications for this rental funding by the end of the month or early April.

“We’re facing a challenge with landlords who have mortgages who have not been able to collect the rent so this is actually a two-pronged approach to reach out to both landlords and the tenets,” DuRant said.

But in order to open applications, the county has to iron out logistics. Right now, they are reaching out to different groups that can help people fill out the application once open.

“Churches, nonprofits, the library, municipalities,” DuRant said. “To gauge their ability to partner with us to help with outreach and to help people that may or may not have difficulty filling out the application and uploading the appropriate documents.”

During Thursday’s county council meeting, leaders will be looking at logistics of hiring an outside company to collect and log all the applications they expect this spring.

The county has until September 30 to distribute at least 65 percent of their federal funding for renters and landlords.

“When we open the application and begin the process of certifying people as eligible, checks will begin being issued to landlords,” DuRant said.

Community organizer Kimberly Harmon has spent the past year helping people with housing insecurity. She said the county funds are needed now more than ever.

“When they’re cut off, there’s no resources out there for them to tap into anymore because everyone is tapped out,” Harmon said. “If you don’t make it available then I just sits there and by the time it is available everyone’s already homeless so then how do you get back on your feet once you’ve hit this homeless point.”

This year, more people have also reached out to Trident United Way for rental assistance. Associate Vice President Cathy Easley said the need is only increasing, with February calls up 63 percent from this time last year.

“The top needs that people are asking us for are electric assistance, rental assistance, water assistance and food,” Easley said. “And it’s a snowball effect. If someone can’t pay their rent and they continue to fall behind.”

DuRant said the county wants to do what it can to help people in need before the national ban on evictions expires at the end of March.

“From a community perspective, if we can’t get ahead of this, there’s going to be another ripple associated with evictions, homelessness,” DuRant said.

Before the applications open, people with immediate needs can reach out to the county through their online financial assistance application.

People can also call the Trident United Way helpline at 211.

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