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Rental assistance available for Harrison County residents affected by COVID-19

If you are a renter in Harrison County and lost your job to COVID-19, or could not work because you were sick, there’s now assistance that could help you.
Updated: Mar. 22, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - If you are a renter in Harrison County and lost your job to COVID-19, or could not work because you were sick, there’s now assistance that could help you.

A $6 million grant awarded to the county through the CARES Act will be administered by the Open Doors Homeless Coalition. On Monday, the county released the first $650,000 monthly allotment to be distributed. The program can pay up to 12 months back rent and three months going forward. It will also provide other resources to help people recover from the pandemic’s economic impact.

“We have already assessed 75 people who are in desperate need of assistance and we know there are a significant number of people in Harrison County who need the assistance,” said Mary Simons, Executive Director of the Open Doors Homeless Coalition.

One of those is Zimesha Brown of Biloxi.

When schools were shut down by COVID-19, Brown had to quit her job to take care of her daughter who suffered from lung ailments that made her more susceptible to the novel coronavirus.

“When they first went back to school, she did the virtual learning because she has asthma and she has had Kawasaki disease, which resembles the side effects of COVID in kids,” Brown said. “So I was terrified to let her go back when they first initially opened school.”

Brown had been working more than 40 hours a week for a car rental company before the pandemic. Not knowing how to navigate the unemployment system has kept her from receiving those benefits. She said she applied for rental help months ago.

“I had eviction notices multiple times,” Brown said. “But I kept all my paperwork as far as me applying for jobs, getting jobs. It’s not as easy as people think as far as people losing jobs and people trying to go back and get jobs, and not being able to get the job you were currently working.”

“Sometimes if their back to work, they’re making less than they were before the pandemic,” Simons said. “And so, even if they’re paying their rent now, there may be some arrears that have stacked up that are impossible to catch up.”

Brown said she has found work-at-home jobs to help cover some of the gaps, but never enough to cover all her expenses.

“I did do as much as I could after I couldn’t go back to work as far as keeping up with my rent. I did what any single mom could do,” she said.

Brown’s situation, Simons explained, is just what the program is intended to help.

“And so we will be able to help people catch up, and for people who have been unable to find a job, we will connect them to community resources that will help them do that,” she said.

The program continues through Dec. 31.

According to a press release issued by Harrison County, these are the qualifications you need to meet and how to apply for the assistance.

“If you have been impacted by COVID 19 and have fallen behind on your rent, please first check with your landlord to see if they have already begun the process with Open Doors Homeless Coalition. If so, they will schedule a time for us to meet with you and them to gather the necessary paperwork. If your landlord has not been in touch with us, please call 228-604-8011 and leave a clear message with a call-back number. We will return your call and ask questions to determine your eligibility for assistance and, if eligible, set an appointment to gather documentation.

  • Your income must be below $48,700 if you are a family of 4 or below $34,100 if you are an individual. Please make sure you have 1 month of paystubs if you are working or a copy of your unemployment benefits if you are not. If you receive SSI or any other benefits, have a copy of your benefits letter. We need income information for everyone in the family. If you do not have any income, we will have a form for you to sign.
  • Please bring any documentation you may have that shows your situation was caused by the pandemic. If you do not have documentation, please write a statement that tells us how your hardship is related to COVID 19.
  • We will need a copy of your lease and your landlord will need to sign some documents. After a review, if you are eligible for assistance, we will contact both you and your landlord to complete the process. Any checks for rent will be made out to the landlord on your behalf.

For more information, call 228-604-8011. If you do not live in Harrison County and need emergency rental assistance, please apply at www.ms-ramp.com.

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