GREENSBORO, N.C. — A change in the HOPE program will help more people pay their bills and give landlords the money they're owed.
The rental and utility assistance program is helping families impacted by the pandemic and currently serves 88 North Carolina counties.
Previously, applicants could only make 50% of the median income in their area to be eligible. The HOPE program is now expanding that to 80%, which means a lot more people can get help.
For example, in Alamance County, the median income is $68,000. It used to be only families who made $34,000, 50% of the median income, would qualify. Now, with the extension of up to 80%, families who make $54,000 could be helped.
Eligible applicants can get up to 12 months of rent assistance, which can be back rent or future rent payments. That rent payment goes directly to the landlord.
Applicants can also get up to three months of utility payments for electricity, gas, water, and wastewater.
“We know if you don't have stability at home, you don't have stability in anything, you can't take care of health, keep a job, get benefits. If we're not helping people stabilize in that most basic function, nothing else is going to work,” said Laura Hogshead, Chief Operating Officer for the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency.
The first phase of the program helped more than 36,000 families statewide, with $133 million in assistance. The second phase, which started in May, has $800 million in assistance to give out.
“Landlords are hurting too, whether the income level is 50%, 60% or 80%, landlords have been waiting on checks, so these are more checks to go to more landlords and I hope that will help stabilize families and the economy,” said Hogshead.