The Missouri Housing Development Commission is running a program for rent and mortgage assistance. Here’s how a local organization can help you apply before the September deadline.
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If you’re a Missouri homeowner who has been financially set back due to COVID-19, you may qualify for up to $50,000 to help pay for your mortgage.
And if you’re a renter who has also been impacted by the pandemic, you may qualify for thousands to offset rent and utility payments — including back payments dating to April 2020 and payments up to three months in the future, with a maximum of 12 months total in assistance.
Under the Missouri Housing Development Commission’s State Assistance for Housing Relief (SAFHR) program, launched in 2021, all one has to do is submit an application with necessary documents to receive this funding.
Yet people may not know how to apply for this aid. That’s where local organizations — including at least one in Kansas City — come in.
Reconciliation Services, a Kansas City nonprofit, has received state funding to help area residents apply for SAFHR funding. The organization is located on Linwood Boulevard and its mission is to transform Troost Avenue from a historic dividing line into a community gathering place offering access to a variety of needs, including social and mental health services.
“The level of assistance that we’re able to provide right now because of these grants, it has the ability to really stabilize somebody,” said Jodi Mathews, the director of marketing and development at Reconciliation Services. “Not just get them one month more, they can do back rent, they can do multiple months in the future.”
Since they began helping individuals in July 2021, the organization has been able to assist 18 households, securing $52,810 in rent assistance, $17,617 in utilities assistance and nearly $1,400 in mortgage assistance.
The deadline for applications to the program is Sept. 30.
“We have the ability to help like 200 more people with this stuff before the time runs out,” Mathews said.
“We want people to know if you are struggling to pay your rent and utilities or mortgage we have funding that we can help you.”
‘A perfect storm’ of rising costs, reduced income
Across the country and throughout the state, many people are still trying to recover from the financial toll of the ongoing pandemic while facing increased expenses due to inflation, including for gas and groceries.
Mathews recalled a client whose sister and four kids moved in with her. In the blink of an eye, the client went from taking care of herself to feeding and housing a family.
“She personally didn’t lose her job, but her job ended up needing to be able to support more people than just herself,” Mathews said.
She added that the end of the eviction moratoriums in July also impacted people’s ability to pay bills, as they were suddenly responsible for paying back rent that had been on hold.
“And so then you have reduced income or lost income, increased expenses, and then you have all the back stuff that you still have to figure out how to come up with,” she said. “So it’s kind of been a perfect storm.”
Barriers within the application process for housing assistance
Lack of internet access is concentrated in neighborhoods east of Troost Avenue, which are more likely to be lower income and have more residents of color.
Reconciliation Services typically serves these neighborhoods and helps residents overcome the digital barrier.
“A lot of people need support just navigating the website, uploading documents, faxing in documents, maybe working with a SAFHR representative to navigate the process of the landlord’s portion of it,” said Alexis Martin, the lead case manager at Reconciliation Services.
Martin even once had a client who almost lost his life in a car wreck before hearing back from SAFHR. While he was in the hospital recovering, she was able to help him continue his application.
“Him having a case manager just continued to keep the ball rolling,” she said. “In any other incident he may not have had any type of contact with SAFHR.”
So far, the organization has assisted with 20 ZIP codes in Clay, Jackson and Platte counties — including Independence, Raytown and Grandview. The most served ZIP code is 64128, where the median household income is $25,933, according to ZIP Data Maps. The neighborhoods there include Santa Fe and Ingleside.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have computers in their home,” said Martin. “And they struggle with getting to the library… and then it costs money to upload documents and fax documents and things of that nature. And here, we can process all that for free.”
One of the most prominent ways case managers show up for clients is to assist them in advocating for themselves with landlords.
“Coming to an organization like Reconciliation Services to help navigate the process is really critical for a lot of people because there’s a lot of trauma and power dynamics that people have to navigate in talking with their landlord about these things,” said Mathews.
Landlords can also apply to SAFHR on behalf of a tenant. Despite the fact that payments go directly to landlords, not all are receptive to the program.
Some landlords feel the process takes too long for them to go without getting paid, especially for tenants who are still behind on their rent, according to Martin.
Should a landlord refuse to submit an application, the case managers can reach out to SAFHR, who can then submit the check directly to the tenant.
“That requires another three weeks before anything can be reviewed and processed. We’re talking about another month of rent and utility assistance,” she said.
Am I eligible for housing assistance?
To qualify for SAFHR mortgage assistance, homeowners must have a total annual household income within 100% of the U.S. median income or 150% of the area median income, whichever is greater, and be able to attest to inability to pay mortgage due to a financial hardship after Jan. 21, 2020.
The median income in Jackson County, for example, is $86,000. Therefore, to qualify, the annual household income for a family of three would need to be between $64,994 and $129,000.
Homeowners are also asked to submit a statement describing the nature of the financial hardship in the one-time application.
Renters are eligible for SAFHR if their income is less than 80% of their area median income. In order to apply for future rent assistance, the tenant must not owe any rent for any months beginning April 1, 2020. The max income for a three-person household in Jackson County is $69,750.
In order to receive utility assistance, tenants must have an invoice from the utility provider.
You may reapply for additional rental assistance as long as your household does not apply for any months in which you have already received SAFHR or other assistance and your household does not receive more than 12 total months of total SAFHR assistance.
In addition to SAFHR, Kansas City is also distributing funding through the Emergency Rent and Utility Assistance Program, part of the congressional COVID-19 relief package. Renters can receive up to 12 months in assistance, plus three additional months of future rent. To be eligible, applicants must have household income at or below 80% of the area median income and demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
Reconciliation Services directly distributes ERAP funds to applicants. The deadline for this funding isn’t until 2025 or until the funding is finished.
Those who wish to apply through Reconciliation Services can request an appointment with a case manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-931-4751. They also take walk-in appointments.
As SAFHR is a statewide program, a variety of agencies and organizations are helping Missourians access this funding, including: Employment Connection in St. Louis, the Ozarks Area Community Action Corp., the East Missouri Action Agency and many others. Kansas homeowners can learn about mortgage, property tax and other housing-related payments through the Kansas Homeowner Assistance Fund.
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