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$9 million in grant funding awarded to help prevent homelessness in Iowa

Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 10:36 PM CST
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Iowa (KCRG) -Governor Reynolds announced Friday that millions of COVID-19 stimulus dollars from March are going towards preventing homelessness.

Throughout Iowa, 35 different groups will work with a total of $8.8 million from the Emergency Solutions Grant Program through the federal CARES Act. That’s money meant to help people at risk of getting evicted, or help people who have lost their home get one back. And it’s coming at a critical time for some.

In September, a CDC emergency order put a moratorium on evictions -- a move meant to help people stay in their homes to slow the spread of coronavirus. If a tenant meets the requirements, for example, making less than 100 thousand dollars a year for one person, and experiencing a significant loss of income, they can stay in their homes even if they can’t pay rent- but the rent doesn’t disappear. It still must get paid in full when the order expires at the end of the year.

Ericka Petersen with Iowa Legal Aid says come January, she’s expecting to see more evictions. ”Some of the unemployment benefits are also slated to end at the end of December. And we saw at the end of the state moratorium, at the end of May, an uptick in evictions. And in August, when we had the end of the federal moratorium and the end of some federal unemployment benefits, we saw the biggest wave we’ve seen so far,” says Petersen.

She says evictions across Iowa are down since the pandemic, which she believes shows the moratorium is keeping people from being evicted, but that doesn’t mean tenants aren’t facing difficulties. Petersen says since November 1, Iowa Legal Aid has had more than double the amount of intakes about landlord tenant issues than the same period last year. In Linn County, that number in November doubled year over year, and in Black Hawk County, the number nearly tripled. “It is also important to remember that the impact of evictions reaches far beyond the tenants being evicted, but harms everyone in the community by contributing to increased spread of coronavirus,” says Petersen.

“So, if it’s hard to pay one month’s rent, it’s going to be really really hard, or impossible, to pay four months’ rent when that time comes due,” says Director of Development Christine Ralston. Shelter house in Iowa City will get more $800,000 dollars of the federal money. Around $600,000 of that is reserved for Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing efforts. That helps people who lose their home find another place to live quickly, or works to stop some evictions entirely, which Shelter House leaders say they have seen more cases of since the pandemic. Ralston says, working with other organizations such as Iowa Legal Aid, Shelter House is currently seeing around a dozen evictions per week, many of which are able to be halted. “We are hoping that because of the support of our community more people will be able to come out of everything on their feet, and to the extent that they’re not, that our community will continue to step up and support these people who are becoming homeless and experiencing homelessness at one of the most stressful and dangerous times of year,” says Ralston.

The Linn County Sheriffs Department says in 2020, the number of evictions is down by nearly half the number of evictions from the same time period in 2019.

In a press release about the Emergency Solutions Grant Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Iowa Finance Authority in partnership with participating Iowa service agencies, Governor Reynold’s office said “to be eligible for eviction prevention assistance to avoid homelessness, Iowans must have an income of 50% of the area median income or less and be at imminent risk of eviction in addition to meeting other eligibility criteria. To be eligible for assistance in rapidly regaining housing, Iowans must be currently experiencing homelessness.”

The assistance will be available until all funds are exhausted or September 30, 2022.

People in need of assistance can apply online at iowahousingrecovery.com.

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