KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The COVID-19 pandemic has put a financial strain on families across the Kansas City area, making it challenging for some to even keep a roof over their heads — but there is help.
On Friday, leaders representing the rental housing industry gathered for a virtual #GetTheRentPaid event to discuss what help is available and how renters and landlords can access it.
"That money is available for rental assistance and utility assistance across 12 months, so it's a big deal. There's help for everyone out there,” said Stacey Johnson-Cosby with Kansas City’s Regional Housing Alliance.
“We want to form a bridge between the landlords and the tenant community,” Overland Park Realtor Yogi Gupta added.
Approved tenants will be eligible for a maximum of 12 months of assistance paid directly to the landlord or utility companies.
It isn’t just tenants who can take action to get this assistance — landlords can, too.
Applications can be initiated by the tenant or housing provider, then both have to sign off on it.
Housing industry experts say there's help available in Missouri and Kansas.
“There are caseworkers at community nonprofits who are available to walk alongside applicants who need the extra help,” said Jim MacDonald, chief community impact officer for the United Way of Greater Kansas City.
“Our goal is to keep the information rolling," Johnson-Cosby said. "People need help paying their rent and utilities. No need to stress, help is on the way,” Johnson-Cosby said.
Where you go to apply if you’re a tenant - that depends on where you live.
Johnson County, Kansas, is working with the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation to run its emergency rental assistance program, On the Missouri side, Kansas City is running it’s own program while Jackson County is running its rental assistance through a partnership between the United Way and Community Services League. Clay County is running its program through the United Way.
“In the Kansas City region, we're talking about five distinct programs, each of which has its own place to go for residents to apply,” MacDonald said.
Experts say there is a program for everyone, so long as you meet the eligibility criteria.
According to Kansas City’s Regional Housing Alliance, an "eligible household" is defined as a renter household in which one or more individuals:
- Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income
- Incurred significant costs
- Experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19
- Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability
- Has a household income at or below 80% of the area median.
"For landlords and tenants, it's important to be patient in awaiting payments to be made, I think the turnaround time in the various programs that have been set up can range between a couple of weeks to a couple of months,” MacDonald said.
The rental experts advised tenants who are applying for assistance to let their housing provider know the status of their application. Landlords are more likely to work with tenants if they know money is coming.
“That is a condition of the program,” Manager of HUD Programs Jenni Miller said. “If a landlord is receiving forward assistance or assistance to keep them in that unit, they cannot go forward with that eviction."