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Millions for SC rent assistance remain as eviction moratorium extended through July | News


South Carolina still has hundreds of millions of federal dollars to help tenants catch up on overdue rent and utilities, and a one-month extension of the eviction moratorium has created a little more time.

Despite outreach efforts, South Carolina and seven counties handling the funds directly still have the majority of the money they received. The money goes to landlords and utility companies, but tenants must apply for it.

“The money is there, it’s for our community and we want them to come get it,” said Bob Mihalic, Greenville County spokesman. “We’re promoting it, and putting it out there as much as we can.”

He said the county received $15.8 million from the federal government and has so far distributed $3.3 million, to about 750 households. Greenville is among seven counties large enough to have received federal funds directly. Residents of that county should call 855-216-9195 for information.

SC Housing, which is in charge of $271.8 million in rent and utility funding for the state’s 39 smaller counties, has received more than 7,000 applications since the first week of May that add up to about $30 million in potential assistance.

However, SC Housing has distributed less than $100,000 so far. Chris Winston, spokesman for the housing authority, said the distribution of funds should accelerate in the coming days and weeks.

He said reaching tenants in 39 counties has been a challenge, and the June 24 announcement that the federal eviction moratorium would be extended for one more month, through July, was great news.

“It allows us the opportunity to get federal funds out to landlords, many of whom have had to go without it for much of the past year, while keeping our state’s vulnerable residents in their homes,” Winston said.

The money is intended to help tenants with low to moderate incomes who can show they suffered financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic and face potential eviction. Overdue rent and utilities dating to March, 2020 can be paid with the money.

Renters who need assistance in Anderson, Berkeley, Charleston, Greenville, Horry, Richland and Spartanburg counties should contact those counties directly. In all other counties, renters should contact SC Housing at 803-336-3420 or online at schousing.com.

Charleston County started with $12.4 million, has processed 681 applications, and has $7.4 million left, according to the county. On top of that, the county has received another $10 million in federal funding. County residents should call 855-452-5374, on weekdays, for information.

Berkeley County initially had $6.89 million to distribute, but stopped taking applications in mid-April with about $5 million remaining. In June the county received another $5 million from the U.S. Treasury and, with about $10 million on hand, started taking applications again.

County spokeswoman Hannah Moldenhauer said $3,252,178 in rent and utility assistance has been requested, and $863,574 has so far been approved. Berkeley County renters should call 843-377-8507 to learn more.

Moldenhauer said that out of 717 applications, 142 were denied because they didn’t meet the requirements for the program.

Under federal guidelines, renter households are eligible if at least one person living there meets all of these criteria:

Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19. Documentation, such as a 2020 federal income tax return, could demonstrate the hardship.Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability. Example: A past-due rent notice, eviction filing, or utility shut-off warning.Has a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median. Median income varies by county and by family size. For example, a single person could earn up to $46,000 in Charleston County and qualify, but only $29,350 in Bamberg County.

In Spartanburg County, “things are going well, but not as fast as we would like,” said Kathy Rivers, director of community development.

The county has been working with four local agencies to process applications and distribute funds, and as of June 18 had distributed about $1.5 million of the $9.6 million the county received.

“We want to see families remain in their homes,” Rivers said. “We’re realized it’s just hard to reach everybody.”

The one-month extension of the federal moratorium on evictions creates more opportunity for tenants to get caught up on rent before they are potentially forced out — and an opportunity for landlords and utility companies to collect what they are owed.

“This is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when the extension was announced.

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

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