Local rental assistance on the way

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net
The Examiner

More than 1,100 families around Jackson County outside of Kansas City reportedly have shown some interest in the latest rental assistance program that area officials will administer from federal funds.

The Jackson County Legislature gave final approval Monday for the county to finalize a contract with United Way and the Community Services League to distribute more than $11.5 million in federal grant dollars for rental housing assistance.

Doug Cowan, president/CEO of the Community Services League, said as of Monday morning about 625 families had filled out a short form of interest from CSL over the past couple weeks to receive an electronic application for assistance. Cowan said the United Way of Greater Kansas City shared that about 500 families who had filled a similar interest form in the Kansas City port live in Jackson County.

The funds come from $25 billion allocated under the Consolidated Appropriations Act that Congress passed shortly before Christmas. Separately, Kansas City is scheduled to receive $14.8 million. Funding is based on population.

Cowan said the United Way is serving an umbrella role around the metro area, helping to avoid overlapping services.

“Based on the number of times ‘duplication of services’ is used,” Cowan said of the federal program language, “they’re trying to help as many possible.”

There will be a single-source application system, he said, so all applications will go to one clearinghouse.

“We’re excited to get going,” Cowan said. “We believe the demand will be great.”

Eligible households include renters who:

• Demonstrate a risk of homelessness or housing instability.

• Have a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median.

• Have seen their income reduced or have incurred significant costs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Program information can be found at www.jacksoncountyerap.org, or www.jacksoncountyerap.org/espanol for Spanish-speaking families.

Cowan said CSL will soon announce some in-person community outreach events at a variety of locations to help locate applicants, and there will also be some offices around the county where a case manager can help families upload an application.

“We know that not everybody is able to do an application online,” he said. “We encourage any family in suburban Jackson County that’s been struggling to apply. Within the rules, we’ll do anything we can to help them.”