CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County has officially opened up its application process for a rental assistance program set to give out $12.4 million. In just three hours, nearly 200 tenants and 37 landlords had already applied for the money.
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program is for renters and landlords struggling under the weight of the pandemic. Charleston County Director for Community Development Jean Sullivan says it will provide much-needed relief.
“We believe there is a tremendous need,” Sullivan said. “There are currently hundreds of people on the Charleston County evictions list.”
The country isn’t going to simply write a check to everyone who qualifies. The money will go directly to the landlord or utility company. It can help with current or overdue bills that may have accrued over the last 12 months.
Sullivan says they can pay 12 months of fair market rent plus 20 percent.
“It is our intention to pay past due rent first,” Sullivan said. “We need to do as much as we can to clear up these past due rents so they [tenants] don’t end up being put on the streets. Once they become homeless it becomes a bigger problem than just trying to pay their rent.”
In order to qualify for the program, you’ll need to meet these three criteria:
- The renter has a risk of homelessness, housing instability, or unsafe living conditions.
- The renter or member of the renter’s household is eligible for unemployment insurance benefits or has experienced a financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The renter’s household income is less than or equal to 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI)
The application can be applied for online or over the phone by calling (855) 452-5374. The Charleston County Library is also offering one-on-one support for filling out an application, though an appointment is required.
Sullivan says they expect around 5,000 applications and are hoping to be able to fill around 2,000 of them. She says it’s a moving target because rent prices are highly variable.
The money comes from the $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill passed in December. The county will cut checks once a week. Sullivan says she hopes the first checks will be sent out by next Wednesday.