COLUMBIA, S.C. — As inflation and rent prices continue to skyrocket, many South Carolinians are feeling the pinch. For those struggling with their rent or utilities, there are resources available.
Akira Johnson lost her primary source of income early in the pandemic when she was forced to close her Lash extension business.
"I didn't have a backup plan. So when they said no salon, no lashes. It's like my world turned upside down," said Johnson.
Despite Downsizing her apartment, applying for unemployment benefits and emptying her savings, she eventually fell behind on rent.
"I was behind about $9,000 By the time rental assistance came into play," said Johnson.
When she heard she was accepted into SC Stay Plus in 2021, she felt relieved.
"It's super important for my kids to come home from school to have a place that they call home," said Johnson. "And a happy mom."
Johnson is still using the program today as her business continues to bounce back after the pandemic. Renaye Long with SC Housing said its thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars from Federal Covid Relief Funds.
"We've basically served about 46,000 families and spent $186 million," said Long.
Long said the program helps those who are up to 12 months behind on rent dating back to March 13, 2020; up to three months of future rent to stabilize those with housing insecurity; and cover other housing costs.
"We want people to reach out early. We don't want them to wait until they get the eviction notice," said Long.
Residents in 39 counties are eligible to participate in the program. Seven counties received other funding and are providing their own rental assistance programs: Anderson, Berkeley, Charleston, Greenville, Horry, Richland, and Spartanburg
Renters needing this assistance must apply and submit certain documents to show they need help. Applicants must meet one of the following requirements:
- 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.
Long said there is an income eligibility calculator on SC Housing's website.
SC Housing also offers the South Carolina Homeowner Rescue Program to help homeowners who are behind on mortgage payments.
"There's plenty of money available to continue to assist families in our state," said Long.
The City of Columbia Awarded the Cooperative Ministry $250,000 to assist eligible city residents with rent and utilities.
The city tells News 19 these funds have almost runs out, but encourages those in need to contact the ministry at at 803-799-3853 x608 or email email@example.com for more information.
Richland County was also awarded Covid relief funds for rental assistance. To date Richland County has approved more than $17 million in aid for residents.