COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Applications are now open for people who need help paying back rent and utilities during the pandemic.
People who qualify can get up to 12 months of aid for rent or utility bills that date back to March of 2020. They can also qualify for up to three months of future rent assistance.
After a year of economic hardship, the SC Stay Plus program aims to help keep evictions at bay, and help renters and landlords get back on their feet across the state.
“We still see people who have that little nudge in the back of their minds and are concerned that they’re going to get an eviction notice,” Chris Winston, a spokesman for SC Housing, said. “Or maybe they’ve gotten an eviction notice and they know they only have a certain amount of time to hurry up and get those payments into their landlord or they risk being put out on the street. We are trying to prevent that from happening as much as we possibly can.”
Winston said they expect a large pool of applicants.
“There could be 100,000 households in South Carolina, who because of COVID are in some sort of danger of housing instability,” Winston said. “Maybe they missed a payment or two back in the summer or fall… Maybe they’re safe and secure now, but they still have these lingering missed payments over their head and they’re worried about eviction.”
For a household to qualify, one or more individuals must meet all of the following criteria:
- Has qualified for unemployment or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship directly or indirectly due to COVID-19 (since March 2020)
- Can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability
- Has a household income at or below 80% of the county median income (Click or tap here to check those amounts for each SC county.)
“The federal government has asked us to prioritize people who have been out of work for more than 90 days, and people who are less than 50% of their area’s median income,” Winston said. “We do want to make sure we are taking care of people who need it the most -- the hardest hit folks.”
SC Housing launched a similar program called SC Stay in February, in which $25 million in emergency renters assistance was given out.
“We saw 7,000 applicants in the first six days that the application portal was open -- basically exhausting requests for the $25 million,” Winston said.
Winston said SC Housing hopes to distribute all the funds to these households by September.
This funding is made available by the US Department of the Treasury. Congress passed a $25 billion rental and utility assistance package in December.
Residents in 39 counties are eligible. However, people who live in seven of the largest counties across the state, including Richland County, will use different programs for housing assistance, because those counties were sent money directly from the US Treasury.
Gov. Henry McMaster and legislators passed a joint resolution in April to determine how South Carolina’s funds should be distributed.