Up to $10 million in assistance available; funding will cover up to five months of rental or mortgage arrears for eligible applicants affected by COVID-19 pandemic
The Live Well Erie Emergency Housing Taskforce has announced a new program to assist tenants, home owners and landlords affected by the current COVID-19 health pandemic. The Live Well Erie and City of Buffalo CARES Act Renters and Mortgage Assistance Program will provide temporary rent and mortgage assistance to individuals who were unable to pay their rent or mortgage due to circumstances related to the pandemic. These circumstances include being laid off, furloughed, workplace closure, having a wage earner unable to work due to contracting COVID-19 or being the primary caregiver of someone who contracted COVID-19. The emergency rental/mortgage assistance will be available to cover up to five months of rent/mortgage payments and a maximum of $3,500 for households that qualify.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz was joined by City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns, Erie County Commissioner of Social Services Marie Cannon, Director of Contact Services for 211 WNY Kelly Dodd, and Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance of WNY Dale Zuchlewski to make the announcement. The City of Buffalo, 211 WNY and HAWNY partnered with Erie County to create the program.
“Extending this critical aid to homeowners and renters is another way we are working to help individuals and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic here in Erie County,” Poloncarz said. “The virus’ impacts have been felt countywide and across every sector, so, just as we have acted to help school districts, businesses, children and caregivers, we are acting today to help working families and individuals keep a roof over their heads. We are addressing this need as a community, and I thank Mayor Brown, Clerk Kearns, 211 WNY and HAWNY for aiding in this effort.”
Kearns said, “The county executive spoke of a widespread effort to provide funds directly to those who need it – funds directly to our neighbors who are worrying terribly about being removed from their homes: Seniors. Families. It’s important to remember that we are talking about people’s homes, and the high-stakes when they are at risk to lose it. Our home should be the best part of each day. Our sanctuary from work, conflict and daily struggles. Everyone needs to find this peace in their day, especially during these unbearably stressful times.”
Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April Baskin added, “When I met with the Buffalo Board of Block Clubs in spring 2019, they shared with me concerns about housing assistance and getting help to renters who were already struggling to make ends meet. This initiative is the latest in a series of CARES Act-funded initiatives that the county has created to help those residents during the COVID-19 crisis, and I'm proud to chair a legislative body that is committed to partnering with the county executive and community organizations to make sure we continue to provide support and services where it is most needed."
The Live Well Erie Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Program will provide a grant of up to $1,500 per month to cover the monthly lease rent/mortgage (based on the rent paid as of March 1), with a maximum of $3,500 per household. The rent subsidy will be paid directly to the tenant’s landlord on behalf of the tenant. The mortgage subsidy will be paid directly to the mortgage holder.
This program will be available to renters and homeowners who meet the following eligibility criteria:
√ Must be residents of Erie County;
√ Residents must provide proof of tenancy or mortgage;
√ Household annual income must be at or below 85% of state median income (SMI) level prior to the COVID-19 crisis; and
√ Households must provide documentation of loss or reduction of income due to COVID-19 after March 16.
Household size, maximum annual income
“This has been an effort that has been shaped by a cross section of community providers including legal advocates, housing advocates, faith leaders, municipalities, foundations, the University of Buffalo, housing service providers and more, all working in conjunction with the Live Well Erie Emergency Housing Taskforce,” Cannon said. “We have been working diligently to enhance eviction diversion strategies, develop a centralized intake system and provide financial assistance to families impacted by COVID-19 and our team approach will benefit the entire community.”
Funding provided to households must be utilized for households that are currently behind in rent or mortgage payments and most likely will face eviction when the moratorium on evictions is lifted. Households must be low or moderate income (85% of state median income) prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and must currently reside within Erie County. All services and assistance will be provided on a temporary basis only. A maximum of five months’ rent/mortgage can be offered as financial assistance to approved, qualified households/families. Leveraging of other funding sources is possible as long as the assistance does not exceed the amount in arrears or duplicate funding source.
Zuchlewski said, “I would like to thank the county executive and his Social Services commissioner, Marie Cannon, for leading this effort to assist those who were financially impacted by this pandemic. Once again, the county and City of Buffalo are working together in this joint effort as they did previously to help those experiencing homelessness find shelter during the peak of the pandemic."
The rental properties seeking assistance can only be used for residential use in accordance with local regulations. If the renter/home owner or landlord/mortgage company provides false information to Erie County or its designee, they will not be qualified for the assistance and will be required to repay the assistance. The eligibility determination organization or its designee has the final say/decision in all matters/situations pertaining to this program. The program regulations can be changed at any time throughout the grant year due to reasons of funding or program need. In addition, the entire program may be withdrawn and/or changed by the Erie County for any reason, including reasons of funding or program effect.
How to Apply for Assistance
1. The best way to apply is online at http://www.211wny.org/. All documents can be uploaded to the website. If one does not have access to the internet, simply call 211 for screening and assessment.
2. One will be assigned to an agency that will conduct the interview and collect all required documentation, if one is not able to submit online.
Before contacting 211 by phone or through the website, have answers to the following questions: