Eligible households affected by coronavirus shutdowns can receive up to $6K.
BARNSTABLE — A new program has been set up to help Cape Codders keep up with their rent as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The Barnstable County HOME Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program has set $100,000 aside to help Cape residents not fall behind on their rent, the county Department of Human Services announced this week.
“These funds fill an important gap in the assistance available through other programs,” department director Beth Albert said. “Our primary concern is that people impacted by COVID-19 receive the support they need to remain in their homes.”
The new program will be administered by Housing Assistance Corp., which already has several related programs up and running. People may apply for all of the programs through a single application on HAC’s website.
“It’s another resource we have for people in Barnstable County who are experiencing housing instability or are behind on their rent,” Alisa Magnotta, the CEO of Housing Assistance, said.
Eligible households can receive up to $6,000 to help with rent arrears. If the response to other programs is any indication, there appears to be a need.
The Homeless Prevention Council is starting to see a rise in calls, CEO Hadley Luddy said. The council saw a significant increase in requests for assistance during its back-to-school backpack and school supplies program. She fears things could get worse once seasonal jobs start to disappear this fall.
Both the council and Housing Assistance have seen an increase in the number of first-time clients who never thought they would need aid.
“They don’t even know where to turn,” Magnotta said.
The new county program is designed for people whose income has dried up because of the coronavirus, according to Renie Hamman, the HOME program coordinator. The county did not receive extra money for the emergency rental assistance but was able to allocate other funds from housing development toward the program through the end of the year.
The new program also loosens restrictions on assistance, Hamman said. The program looks at what a person’s income is currently, not overall. It allows assistance to go to people who had income coming in previously, but are not making money now and would be disqualified using metrics such as area median income.
Housing advocates said this will be another piece in the puzzle to help people get through the pandemic-related shutdowns.
“As a result of the pandemic, many people remain unemployed and are uncertain how they will pay their rent to stay in their home,” said Patty Daley, a legal and policy specialist at the Cape Cod Commission. “This financial assistance will not only help to prevent homelessness, it will assist landlords who have been forgoing rental payments, which will support and stabilize the rental stock vital to the economic strength of the region.”
Follow Ethan Genter on Twitter: @EthanGenterCCT.