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Idaho rent and utility assistance program has millions available for families impacted by coronavirus

The program, funded by federal dollars, offers help to people impacted by various circumstances caused by the pandemic.

BOISE, Idaho — At the end of July, the extra $600 a week unemployment benefit expired, making times even more difficult for some families. Unfortunately, those benefits aren't likely to make an immediate impact for some families but one state program might be able to help.

Over the weekend President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for extra unemployment benefits, but legal and political experts say that even if that does happen, it will be weeks or months before those benefits hit.

Families across the country and in Idaho wonder and worry if they will make rent or be able to pay utilities.

The Idaho Housing and Finance Association has a program that they are hoping more people will learn about and get help from - The Housing Preservation Program. With money from the federal government as a part of the CARES Act, Idaho has millions of dollars to give to families in need of financial help with housing.

“This program provides rent and utility assistance to households that are in need of it due to a COVID-19 related circumstance,” said Brady Ellis, the VP of Housing Support Programs with Idaho Housing and Finance Association.

Across Idaho, families have faced tough times, with some being furloughed, others losing their jobs completely. However, the program has $15 million to give out until the end of the year. So far, a large chunk of those funds hasn’t been used.

“So far we have spent just under $2 million, we’ve assisted about 800 households and that equates to about 2,500 individuals,” Ellis said.   

Ellis explained that people might not be aware of the program, so they are trying to get the word out to people in need.

If this sounds like a program that could help someone you know, there are a few qualification requirements.

“You have to have a COVID-19 related circumstance that is challenging your ability to pat rent and utilities. You also have to be making less than 80% of the area median income. You have to be an Idaho resident, and legally residing in the United States, at least one member of the household,” Ellis said.   

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If you qualify, assistance will be paid out for up to three months at first.

“Total cost of rent and utilities for each month,” Ellis said.   

If you are still in need after that, the payments can be renewed for three months, for a maximum of six months total of assistance. A range of situations can be covered.

“Both delinquent, current, and future rent,” Ellis said. “If you know in the coming months that you are not going to be able to make that obligation, then come seek out the program and apply for it because we are helping with future rent obligations.”

Ellis said for those who do know about the program and were able to utilize, it’s made a major difference during tough times.

“Certainly had a lot of situations where people were going to be faced with homelessness and that would have very likely occurred if it wasn’t for this program. So we are receiving a lot of gratitude, a lot of stories and situations where this has helped tremendously. So we are very happy to be able to provide that opportunity for them,” Ellis said.   

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