TULSA, Okla. — There is new hope for thousands of struggling renters fearing eviction.
Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa now have nearly $20 million to help renters pay their bills. The money comes from a new round of nationwide federal assistance.
The organization that would distribute the new money to cash-strapped renters said it expects thousands of applications for help. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Tulsa County had the 11th highest eviction rate in the country.
Despite a federal moratorium on evictions, that crisis has only grown worse as the pandemic has devastated many families' financial lives. Losing your home turns your world upside down and inside out. As for so many, the pandemic was the culprit for Jeremy. It cost him his job and he and the home he was renting.
"It's scary not knowing where to go, not knowing what's going to happen," he said.
Now, help for many struggling renters is just this application away. It connects tenants to Restore Hope Ministries, an organization handling the $20 million of federal financial assistance for Tulsa and Tulsa County.
"We know that landlords and tenants are really hurting right now," said Jeff Jaynes, an executive director at RHM.
Since last May, Jaynes said they've handed out almost $4 million in past federal and locally funded renters' assistance. At RHM, Jaynes said caseworkers pour out their hearts and souls to families in crisis.
"The hardest thing about our work at Restore Hope is the stories we hear from people who are struggling," Jaynes said. "You know, most people who come for help at Restore Hope are in need because of no fault of their own."
Jaynes said checks will go directly to landlords to pay a qualifying tenant's past rent and even future rent in some cases for up to three months yet to come.
"The tenants are applying for help because they're worried about being homeless, but landlords have had to struggle with how they're going to pay their bills as well," he said.
The goal is to provide a little financial breathing room for landlords and tenants to ease their sometimes unbearable burden, if at least for a little while. It gives them a chance to get their family's lives and their aspirations back on track.
"For the past year, that's been tough. It's hard to think forward, it's been hard to dream," Jaynes said.
But as the COVID crisis eases, Jaynes is hoping it's time for them to dream again with their home and their hope restored.
Here are the following qualifications for assistance:
- You must be at least 18 and live in Tulsa or Tulsa County.
- Your income needs to be at or below 80 percent of the area median income. For example, a family of 3 is up to $49,500.
- You have to be experiencing difficulty with housing due to a reduction in income because of COVID-19.
- You may also get help if you've qualified for unemployment since last March.
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