TULSA, Okla. — When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, many people across Green Country faced the fear of eviction due to lost income and other factors.
However, thanks to millions of dollars awarded by the Department of Treasury, one local ministry distributed more than $9 million to emergency rental assistant program applicants. Restore Hope Ministries in Tulsa has the responsibility to connect people to these emergency funds to help make sure they are able to stay in their homes.
Peter Updike is a local landlord who currently owns 43 rental properties across the city. When the pandemic began, Updike says he was concerned about his tenants and how some would be able to pay their rent, and how it would impact his bottom line.
“I was worried about my tenants because I know a lot are right on the edge and then we have mortgages on our properties, and so not getting rent is kind of a scary thing," Updike said.
One of his tenants is Allison Parker, a mother of four who owns a salon. Parker said she was forced to temporarily close her doors when the pandemic started.
“A lot of my clients are elderly, and I lost a lot of them just for the fear of catching COVID," Parker says.
Because of her lost income, she says she was terrified about not being able to pay her rent. That's when the folks at Restore Hope Ministries came to both Updike's and Parker's rescue.
Jeff Jaynes, Restore Hope’s executive director, said right now they are distributing almost $1 million a week in rental assistance. The money comes from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 passed by Congress in December. The funds go to eligible, local governments around the country. Those governments could either come up with a new program to distribute the money or use existing resources like Restore Hope to help.
“We just crossed the $9 million mark which is incredible," Jaynes said. "To put that into perspective, two years ago the entire budget for Restore Hope, our food program, rent, everything all in and all staff was $1 million."
Jaynes said distributing more than $9 million since April 1 has taken a lot of work that begins with taking applications.
"The best thing you can do when you apply is to make sure you have all the documents that you need," Jaynes said. "We do need to show that you are a renter, so we need a lease. We need to show that you are under 80 percent of the area median income and so we need income documents."
Jaynes said the federal program is designed to pay landlords directly, that not only helps them but also helps the tenants.
"That tenant has that burden of debt, and so when we pay the landlord it helps both parties and that’s a double win," he said.
“Restore Hope helped me pay for three months of my rent," Parker says.
Restore Hope is currently working with more than 1,300 landlords and they have served more than 1,900 households. The average payment per household is around $4,700. The federal funding covers a tenant's past due rent and utilities including water, gas, propane and electricity. Rent can be paid forward for up to three months.
As of now, Jaynes said there are about $8 million remaining between the city and the county resources for rental assistance. This money must be spent by the end of September next year.
If you would like more information regarding rental or utility assistance click here.
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