People at risk of facing eviction or foreclosure in the local area due to conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic may receive help staying in their homes with a new program funded by the Department of Housing and Community Development.

STEP Inc. (Solutions That Empower People) has been designated to distribute federal assistance to those with housing challenges who are eligible on behalf of the Continuum of Care (COC), a coalition of local agencies with the mission to address the needs of homeless people in the area.

The Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) was announced recently by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in a press release. According to the release, $50 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding will be distributed throughout the state via a variety of partner agencies.

Individuals and families receiving funding also will be connected to housing counseling and receive other technical assistance. Eligible households must demonstrate an inability to make rent or mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Monthly rent or mortgage must be at or below 150 percent Fair Market Rent (FMR), and eligible households must have a gross household income at or below 80 percent of area median income (AMI).

Depending on availability of funds and household need, the RMRP may provide financial assistance for rent or mortgage payments for eligible households, said STEP Executive Director, Sammi Rader. This includes financial assistance for rent or mortgage payments past due beginning April 1 and onward. Financial assistance is a one-time payment with opportunity for renewal based on availability of funding and the household’s need for additional assistance and continued eligibility.

“This is such a difficult time. STEP is happy to serve the community and the COC by helping to alleviate hardships to families. Stable housing is the foundation for creating sustainable communities,” Rader said.

The RMRP will provide financial assistance on behalf of renters and mortgage holders who meet the following criteria:

• Have a valid lease or mortgage statement in their name or other documentation confirming the landlord-tenant relationship.

• Have experienced a loss of income due to the coronavirus pandemic, including but not limited to:

• Those who have been laid off.

• Those whose place of employment has closed.

• Those who have experienced a reduction in hours of work.

• Those who must stay home to care for children due to closure of day care and/or school.

• Those who have lost child or spousal support.

• Those who have not been able to work or missed hours due to contracting COVID-19.

• Those who have been unable to find work due to COVID-19.

• Those whose are unwilling or unable to participate in their previous employment due to their high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

• Have a rent or mortgage amount that is at or below 150 percent Fair Market Rent (FMR).

• Have a gross household income at or below 80 percent Area Medium Income (AMI) (based on current month’s income). From June 29 through July 20, programs will prioritize households with a current gross household income at or below 50 percent AMI. The determination of income includes any unemployment insurance received by a member of the household but does not include one-time payments such as a stimulus check.

To determine if they are eligible for assistance, individuals can conduct a self-assessment by visiting dhcd.virginia.gov/eligibility. To apply, individuals should contact STEP’s main office in Rocky Mount at (540) 483-5142.

The Continuum of Care (West Piedmont Planning District) is comprised of a Steering Committee made up of representatives from a wide variety of public and private agencies and organizations to address the needs of homeless individuals from the cities of Danville and Martinsville as well as the counties of Franklin, Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania.

Besides STEP, the committee includes Southside Survivor Response Center; Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services; Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority; Disability Rights & Resource Center; The Community Fellowship; City of Martinsville; Piedmont Community Services; Danville Department of Social Services; Pittsylvania County Community Action; and the City of Danville.

Read more stories in the current issue of the Smith Mountain Eagle newspaper. Pick up a copy or subscribe at www.smithmountaineagle.com/subscriber_services to view articles in the print and/or e-edition version.

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