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Hundreds come out to Rental Assistance Fair looking to receive help with rent and utility bills

Published: Jul. 24, 2021 at 10:48 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 24, 2021 at 10:50 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - On Saturday, hundreds of renters poured inside the Mississippi Trademart Center, trying to get help with their rent and utility bills — one of them being Sylvia Moore.

Moore lost her job and fell four months behind on her rent during the pandemic.

She says those were some dark days.

“Frustrated, real frustrated,” Moore recalled. “I was depressed and all. I thought I was about to get kicked out.”

Nevertheless, she said now there is light, and it is all thanks to the rental assistance program.

“It is a great opportunity,” Moore expressed. “I am just grateful; that is why I am here.”

The Mississippi Home Corporation unveiled the program in March.

“So this is a huge, huge benefit,” said Scott Spivey, Executive Director for the Mississippi Home Corporation. “This program provided 200 million dollars to the state of Mississippi to help renters who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”

Spivey said renters can receive up to 15 months of payments to get caught up on any outstanding balances that they have for rent and utility and home energy costs such as gas, electricity, water and sewer, trash removal, and fuel oil.

Though the program is available to all Mississippians, there are a few qualifications. A renter must have experienced a reduction in household income, suffered a significant cost, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19.

They must also demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability and have a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median income.

Documentation is required to approve eligibility requirements.

The federal eviction moratorium is set to end July 31st, meaning landlords can begin evicting tenants who are behind on rent.

However, Spivey said he is hoping landlords will implement a grace period.

“If you are a landlord and you are tempted to evict, if you evict, you are not entitled to the money,” said Spivey. “This is tenant-based. So we are begging landlords do not evict when the moratorium ends. Encourage your tenants to apply for the assistance. If they do not, we are asking them to please work with them because it is for people who make 80 percent or less and below and have been affected by the pandemic.”

Roughly $200 million are being allocated for the program through the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

For those wanting to make it out to the fair but could not, help is still available.

Visit https://ms-ramp.com for more information.

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