LIHU‘E — The state’s moratorium on evictions is valid through the end of the month, but any missed payments during this pandemic are still owed to landlords.
The state, through a new program announced Tuesday, will assist both renters and owners in paying for their housing.
The Rent Relief and Housing Assistance Program uses $100 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money to provide assistance to unemployed renters or those who have had a reduction in work hours due to the pandemic.
“Many are worried about whether they are able to make their rent,” Gov. David Ige said Tuesday.
Tenants need to apply, payments will be made directly to landlords, up to $1,500 on Kaua‘i and the other outer islands, and up to $2,000 on O‘ahu. Households that receive federal or state rent subsidies are not eligible.
The program, in partnership with Catholic Charities Hawai’i and Aloha United Way, is available to full-time Hawai‘i residents who are at or below their county’s area median income. On Kaua‘i, for a single person, that’s up to $68,000, and for a family of four $97,100, as defined by federal Department of Housing and Urban Development 2020 income limits.
This program can be used on payments between Aug. 1 and Dec. 28, and can be made in a lump-sum amount.
A separate, second-phase program to cover past-due rent and mortgage payments with due dates as far back as March 1 is in the works.
The assistance can serve between 8,000 to 11,000 households, but because the program will also cover other services like financial counseling, paying homeowner’s association fees and mediation, it’s unclear how many households will receive help from this first phase.
“We have to see what the demand is like,” said Denise Iseri-Matsubara, executive director of the Hawai‘i Housing Finance and Development Corporation.
Matsubara said it’ll take a couple of weeks to process applications.
“We must do more to keep families in their homes,” Ige said. “The rental-assistance program will be a much-needed reprieve.”
John Fink, president and CEO of Aloha United Way, said calls to his nonprofit have been up 600% since the start of the pandemic, with people seeking help on housing, food, physical ailments, mental-health concerns, child-care and elderly needs.
“Our goal is to ensure that qualified applicants receive assistance in a timely manner to help keep as many Hawai‘i residents housed as possible,” Fink said.
Rob Van Tassell, Catholic Charities Hawai‘i CEO and president, echoed these sentiments.
“Working with clients who are struggling financially during this pandemic, Catholic Charities Hawai‘i understands that many who have lost their jobs are one step away from homelessness as they cannot afford to pay their rent,” Van Tassell said.
“This emergency rental-assistance program will help keep tenants in their homes and safely sheltered, while ensuring landlords are properly compensated.”
State Senate President Ron Kouchi, who represents Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, thanked the governor, his administration and public and private partners for helping to make this housing-assistance program come to fruition.
“We’re incredibly concerned about not adding to our homeless population,” Kouchi said.
The application is available now. For more information or to apply, visit hihousinghelp.com, call 521-HELP (4357) or 211.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.