CSL rental housing assistance update

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

Since applications opened the first week of April, the Community Services League has distributed more than $1.4 million to households as part of a rental assistance program with federal grant dollars. 

At last check, president/CEO Doug Cowan said, 365 applications have been closed and paid to landlords or utility companies – an average of more than $3,800 paid out. In addition, another 132 applications have received initial approval and will likely be paid out soon. 

Those closed applications are part of 1,247 applications received through the portal for Eastern Jackson County. CSL is handling that area in partnership with the United Way of Greater Kansas City, which is overseeing the program over Kansas City and surrounding Jackson County. CSL is scheduled to distribute more than $11.5 million, and the city of Kansas City was scheduled to distribute $14.8 million. 

The funds, based on population, come from $25 billion allocated by the Consolidated Appropriations Act that Congress passed shortly before Christmas and former President Trump approved Dec. 27. A couple weeks before applications officially opened, CSL and United Way officials reported that more than 1,100 families had filled out forms of interest in the program. 

Cowan said a heartwarming aspect he’s seen with this program, is that many landlords allowed people to ride out the pandemic with less or no rent.  

“Federal law allows us to pay up to 12 months of delinquent rent, and we have seen many people who’ve received 12 full months of assistance,” he said. “It’s not only a big help for renters, but also a boost for landlords, because it will help them make needed repairs at the property. It’s clearly good for everyone involved.” 

From more than 1,200 applications to CSL, just 68 have been deemed ineligible, Cowan said, either because the applicant was a homeowner, lived outside the county or made too much money based on federal regulations for the program. 

With $1.4 million paid out and another estimated $2 million tied up in active applications, more than half of allocated funds are still available, so Cowan expects the assistance program will last several more months unless the pace of applications and approved cases picks up. 

“The fund is not going to dry up in the next few days,” he said. 

As part of the program for CSL, Cowan said their case managers have been working with the Jackson County Circuit Court to mitigate eviction cases.  

“That’s a win for everyone, because not only does a family stay houses, but many times an eviction means a landlord doesn’t see any of that money,” Cowan said. 

Interested families are still encouraged to apply at www.jacksoncountyerap.org, or www.jacksoncountyerap.org/espanol for Spanish-speaking families. 

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.