GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County launched its new emergency rent and utility assistance program on Monday to help people who are facing financial hardships during the pandemic. The new grant program is designed to help people who are unable to make rent or utility payments as a result of COVID-19.
The new Guilford Cares initiative kicked off by accepting applications beginning at 9 a.m. Eligible applicants can apply online on the county's website at www.guilfordcountync.gov.
The grant money is only available to eligible applicants. Under the county’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) an “eligible household” is defined as a renter household that has a household income at or below 80 percent of the area's average income. The grant program also requires that at least one or more people living in the home: qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19. The individual must be able to show a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, according to the county's website.
Sharon Barlow, Deputy Director of the Department of Social Services said the money will help thousands of Guilford County residents.
"Guilford County received right around 7.2 million and the Guilford County Commissioners added some additional funds to bring our total to $8 million," Barlow said. "We know a lot of folks are experiencing a lot of financial hardships around COVID-19 so we expect thousands of applications."
Commissioner James Upchurch stressed the same.
"We know we have at least 10,000 people who have reached out for help," Upchurch explained. "That number is going to grow because even before the pandemic 1 in 5 people lived in poverty in Guilford County."
Guilford County is asking people who are interested in applying for the grant money to gather some documents prior to submitting an application. Applicants will need to provide proof of residency (Driver’s License or any other official document evidencing residency) and a copy of rent statement or lease agreement and/or utility bills showing past due amount. Applicants will also need to verify their household income and provide proof of financial hardship for the previous two months (pay stubs, letter of termination/furlough, unemployment benefits, etc.).
On January 5, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury launched the $25 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Guilford County was awarded a little over $7.25 million dollars in US Treasury funds. The Guilford County Board of Commissioners approved allocating an additional $747,000 to the County Emergency Rental and Utilities assistance program bringing the total money available up to $8 million, according to the news release.
Barlow said applicants can expect notice of whether they'll receive the funds within a months time.
"30 days they will hear back from us, no later than 30 days," she said. "We are expecting to get thousands of applications so we want to be realistic."
Over the past nine months, the County has launched a series of grant programs under their “Guilford Cares” initiatives, designed to provide relief to those negatively impacted by COVID-19. Programs designed to support small businesses, reduce food insecurities, provide child care assistance, and grants to reduce the financial impacts to tourism and arts and culture programs have been put into place.
Guilford County’s allotment will support people who live throughout the County, the City of High Point, and smaller cities that fall within the county limits.
These funds are completely separate from the near $9 million the City of Greensboro also received from the U.S. Department of Treasury. If you live within city limits, you do not qualify for the county funds. You must apply for the city funds once available. The City of Greensboro has not yet launched its application process. A spokesperson said it should be ready in March.
"Half of our county is from Greensboro so a lot of residents there started calling today asking to apply for the Guilford County program," Upchurch stated. "We had to say 'sorry you're going to have to wait for the Greensboro program.' Greensboro is going to oversee their $9 million and Guilford County is going to work with the other municipalities to serve that $8 million dollars."
Those residents living inside the City of Greensboro can find more information at www.greensboronc.gov.