08 N2004P64099HFamilies needing rental assistance in Cumberland County and Fayetteville have several options available to them. Charities, churches and government agencies provide routine assistance in the county. Services offered include shelter, section 8 housing choice vouchers, emergency rental help, low-income housing, and money for security deposits. The U.S. Treasury Department has awarded more than $10 million to the city of Fayetteville and Cumberland County to implement a local Emergency Rental Assistance Program. It’s a significant part of the federal government’s COVID-19 relief package.

An agency is being sought to administer the program and provide direct services of the ERAP which are designed to assist families struggling to make rental and utility payments. Renters in North Carolina cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent. Gov. Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 91 extending the eviction moratorium through March 31. “Both the city and county have issued a joint request for proposal to locate a firm to administer this program because we are expecting an overwhelming number of applications that will be beyond our current capacity to administer,” said Cumberland County Community Development Director Dee Taylor.

Once a firm is selected, a contract is expected to be executed in March or April. No less than 90 percent of the $10 million must be used for direct financial assistance, including rent, rental and utility arrears, utilities and home energy costs, and other expenses related to housing. Funds granted to the city and county generally expire on December 31, 2021. If you or someone you know needs rental, utility or other types of assistance, contact the Coordinated Entry Referral System at 910-479-4663.

A housing referral specialist will conduct a preliminary needs assessment and refer the caller to the appropriate agency for assistance. Delays should be expected because of a high volume of inquiries. Income restrictions apply. In addition to the rental assistance program, the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program administered by the Department of Social Services can help with utility bills. Applications can be accessed at http://www.ccdssnc.com/energy-assistance-programs or by contacting the DSS LIEAP message line at 910-677-2821 or DSS at 910-323-1540.

An “eligible household” is defined as a rental household in which at least one or more individuals meet the following criteria: Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19; demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and has a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median. Households that include an individual who has been unemployed for the 90 days prior to application for assistance and households with income at or below 50 percent of the area median will be prioritized for assistance.

Cumberland County is asking people who are interested in applying for grant money to gather some documents before submitting their applications. Applicants will need to provide proof of residency (driver’s license or any other official document) and a copy of rental statement or lease agreement and/or utility bills showing past due amounts. Applicants will also need to verify their household income and provide proof of financial hardship for the previous two months.

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