State dishes out $14M to landlords through rental assistance program

The state has paid $14 million to landlords so far through its rental assistance program, officials announced on Wednesday.

The $40 million program provides up to $500 a week for up to four weeks to Indiana renters whose income is lower than it was on March 6 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is open to Hoosiers in every county except Marion, where a separate rental assistance program has been made available. Payments are made directly to landlords.

Jacob Sipe, executive director of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, said during Gov. Eric Holcomb’s press briefing on Wednesday that more than 36,000 Hoosiers applied for the financial assistance before the Aug. 26 application deadline.

Sipe said the state is still processing the applications.

“We’re continuing to issue payments every day,” Sipe said.

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. Payments are made directly to the landlord, who must agree not to evict the tenant until he or she is at least 45 days delinquent.

The Holcomb administration initially allocated $25 million from the state’s $2.4 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds for the program, but the high demand prompted him to make an additional $15 million available for it.

Sipe said the Trump administration’s just-announced four-month eviction moratorium won’t affect the program, because individuals protected under that still have to try to pay rent now and will eventually owe the balance in the future.

And, Sipe said, renters could still be evicted for other violations within their lease.

The federal eviction moratorium will be in place from Sept. 4 through Dec. 31. The state’s eviction moratorium expired Aug. 14.

To qualify for protection under the new federal moratorium, an individual must earn less than $99,000 annually, or $198,000 per couple annually. Renters must also prove a loss of income due to the pandemic, that they tried to pay as much rent as they could afford and that they sought any public assistance that might be available to them.

Sipe said renters also must have no other housing option available, so they would be considered homeless or living in a group home setting, in order to qualify for the protection.

“Renters, even under a moratorium, are still obligated to pay their rent, and they must comply with all the other rules and obligations that the household has under their lease agreement,” Sipe said.

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