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SC rent, utility program sees thousands of applicants; millions in funds still available

Hundreds of millions of dollars are available right now for those who have been impacted by the pandemic and need financial support.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — If you’re behind on rent or utility payments, help is available.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are available right now for those who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and need financial support.

The federally funded SC Stay Plus program is able to help eligible applicants with up to 12 months of late payments dating back to the start of the pandemic.

“We’ve been open for about two weeks and we’ve seen more than 4,000 applications come in which is fantastic,” Chris Winston with SC Housing, which facilitates the program, said. “We’re serving folks in 39 counties who are behind on their rent, utility bills. So, we’re excited about the opportunity to serve those folks, get landlords paid. Many of whom have gone without payments over the past year, and help folks with up to 12 months of back rent and utilities, and potentially three months of rent ahead of time.”

RELATED: You may qualify for rental assistance in SC

Assistance is for households in which 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% of county median income adjusted by family size.

Based upon federal requirements, priority will be given to households with an income at or below 50% of the median income and those with an individual who has been unemployed for more than 90 days. Household income can be determined by using income for calendar year 2020 or the household’s monthly income at the time of application.

To apply visit SCHousing.com or call their call center at 803-336-3420. According to SC Housing, You will be notified immediately if the initial screening finds you eligible or if additional paperwork is necessary to complete your application.

RELATED: Applications open for SC rent, utility assistance program

“It’s a $272-million-dollar program. So, it’s nowhere closer to running out,” Winston said. “We’re looking to help a lot more people and hopefully folks will get information by either coming to our website or calling the call center and learning what they can do to apply.”

Seven counties are receiving other funding and will provide their own rental assistance programs. Those are Anderson, Berkeley, Charleston, Greenville, Horry, Richland and Spartanburg.

Richland County was awarded $12.5 million for pandemic-related rent and utility assistance and is providing funds through its Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).

To apply online visit RichlandCountySC.gov/ERA, or call 855-216-9198 for assistance.

Residents may also submit applications in person by appointment by calling 803-576-1513.

The Richland Library is also offering assistance to residents who need help completing the application. Schedule an appointment by calling 803-509-8371, texting 803-386-8506 or emailing socialworker@richlandlibrary.com

For those who have applied and are waiting on funds, SC Stay Plus Program leaders say they try to get applications processed and payments issued within just a few weeks, but it can take longer due to missing or incomplete information.

Similarly, in Richland County, leaders say that, while more than 400 households have received funds, missing information, or priority status, which is based on income level, can lead to longer wait times.

Those with questions can call each agencies help agents. Richland County leaders suggest applicants wait to hear back, however, as there could be a wait with staff assisting other applicants.