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Unadvertised. Unannounced. There were still five people Monday morning at Iowa City’s Center for Worker Justice hoping to get some assistance from a new federal housing fund a year after the first COVID-19 case showed up in Iowa.
“We know how difficult it is to apply — you have to have documentation and upload it, but many people don’t have this technology or understand the language and what they mean by it,” said Mazahir Salih, the center’s interim director and the city’s mayor pro tem.
For this reason, local actors like the Center for Worker Justice are stepping up to connect area households with a fresh round of relief specifically set aside for those impacted by the pandemic here in Iowa.
Eligible renters will have access to rent and utility assistance for up to 12 months. Eligible homeowners could receive up to four months of mortgage payment assistance.
Out of the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed in December, Congress sent $195 million to Iowa for the Iowa Rent and Utility Assistance Program, a project of the Iowa Finance Authority and Iowa Economic Development Authority.
And Sarah Barron, the executive director of the Johnson County Affordable Housing Coalition, says more aid is on the way through the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law earlier this month.
“The goal is not just to get people out of debt, but also to provide some security for them as they get back on their feet,” Barron said. “This is long-term support. … That is a huge difference between the last one this one.”
To help residents access the aide, five area organizations are offering to help navigate the process:
Johnson County Social Services – (319) 356-6090
Coralville Public Library – (319) 248-1850
North Liberty Public Library – (319) 626-5701
Center for Worker Justice – (319) 594-7593
IC Compassion – (319) 330-9883
Iowans can also apply on their own at IowaHousingRecovery.com.
“The number of households behind on rent, utilities or mortgage is staggering,” Barron added. “It’s in everyone’s best interest that we make sure every eligible family is able to apply.”
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Am I eligible for rent or utility assistance?
The aid can cover past-due rent payments and past-due utility bills, as well as future rental assistance. Eligible past-due payments can go as far back as March 13 of last year. Future rental assistance can cover up to three months of assistance at a time. Eligible utility bills include those covering service for electricity, natural gas, propane or fuel oil, water, sewer and trash removal.
- The household’s income is no more than 80% of the area’s median income. For Iowa City, an eligible one-person household makes less or equal to $42,800; a two-person household, $48,900; a three-person household, $55,000; a four-person household, $61,100; a five-person household, $66,000; and so on.
- One or more individuals in the household qualified for unemployment benefits or can document a loss in income, incurred significant costs or experienced other financial hardships due to the pandemic.
- A household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability that may include a past due utility or rent notice or eviction notice.
The program requires renters have proof of identification and address, documentation of financial hardship and documentation of risk of homelessness. According to the Johnson County Affordable Housing Coalition, the following documents are a “best bet” for applicants, although there are options outside of these:
- A valid driver’s license.
- A 2020 tax filing or at least two months of pay stubs for each adult individual in the household.
- A copy of your rental lease.
- A past-due or eviction notice.
- For utility assistance, overdue bills.
- Contact information for your landlord, including their name, mailing address, phone number and email address.
Am I eligible for mortgage assistance?
- The owner is at imminent risk of foreclosure.
- The owner can document COVID-19 related income loss on or after March 13, 2020.
- The household’s income is no more than 80% of the area’s median income.
The program requires documentation of income prior to and after job loss or reduction in income, the latest mortgage statement and, if applicable, a 14-day cure notice or other legal document advising that your loan will be sent to an attorney to initiate foreclosure.
The assistance can cover mortgage payments for up to four months beginning with April 1, 2020, mortgage payments. The assistance cap is set at $3,600.
Need other kinds of assistance?
For housing or utility assistance, contact CommUnity Basic Needs Assistance, at 319-351-0128.
For the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) or emergency response funds for utilities, contact the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP), at 319-337-5765.
For shelter, eviction prevention or housing stability services, contact Shelter House, at 319-351-0326.
For legal help related to housing issues, including eviction prevention, contact Iowa Legal Aid, at 319-351-6570.
To contact a food pantry for support: