Holcomb announces $25M pandemic rental assistance program

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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration on Wednesday announced a new rental assistance program to help individuals struggling to make rental payments during the pandemic, but landlords must agree to participate in the program before renters can qualify for the funding.

The $25 million program, funded through federal aid the state received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, will provide assistance of $500 per month for up to four months. The state expects the program to help about 12,000 households.

It is available to residents in every county except Marion County, which is offering its own $15 million rental assistance program with its share of CARES Act dollars.

To be eligible for assistance, an individual must be able to show a loss of income from an involuntary job layoff, reduced work hours or reduced pay due to the pandemic. Applicants’ current household income, including unemployment benefits, must be less than their household income was on March 6.

A household also is ineligible for the program if it has already received emergency rental assistance during the COVID-19 crisis. Individuals won’t qualify if they are already receiving rental assistance through Section 8 vouchers or U.S. Department of Agriculture assistance.

A renter’s landlord must also agree to participate in the program, otherwise the individual won’t be approved for it.

“That’s why it’s really important right now, and from the very beginning, is to always—whether you’re a renter or a homeowner—to reach out to your mortgage company or your landlord and inform them of your situation and work on developing a payment plan so that those lines of communication are open,” said Jacob Sipe, executive director of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Agency.

If a landlord agrees to participate, the renter cannot be evicted until he or she is more than 45 days delinquent on rent.

Payments will be made directly to landlords and can be used for past-due rent dating to April 1.

Applications will be available on July 13, the state said.

“Housing stability has never been more important,” Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said during a press conference Wednesday.

Holcomb also announced on Wednesday that he will be extending the rental eviction moratorium through July. The order, which had been set to expire Tuesday, has prevented landlords from kicking out their tenants since the pandemic hit in March.

He said he has not made a decision yet on the moratorium of disconnecting utilities, which also expires Tuesday.

Democrat Dr. Woody Myers, who is running for governor against Holcomb, criticized the decision to require landlord permission for the relief.

“Hoosier renters are facing an unprecedented eviction cliff, and rent is due in seven days,” Myers said in a statement. “With his announcement today in requiring landlord permission for renters’ participation in the program, Gov. Holcomb may as well have signed their eviction orders himself. With so many Hoosiers out of work due to the economic devastation due to COVID-19, this is the wrong prescription for Indiana families.”

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