Millions in unused rental aid available as C.D.C. moratorium ends

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 5:10 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 27, 2021 at 7:23 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium is over, but aid for renters is not.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court brought an end to the C.D.C. Eviction Moratorium which would have run through early October.

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Going forward, renters will face eviction for failing to pay rent or back rent.

This could put a strain on thousands of renters throughout South Carolina.

Census data from early August tallies 96,807 South Carolina renters as “not at all confident” of their ability to pay September’s rent.

Federal funds are available to those renters. SC Housing runs SC Stay Plus, a program tasked with distributing $271.8 million of rental assistance. Its available residents in 39 counties across the state, excluding Anderson, Berkeley, Charleston, Greenville, Horry, Richland, and Horry counties.

The program began in May and spokesperson Chris Winston said as of Aug. 27, $17.2 million has been distributed to 3,835 households.

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“Our hope was that between the call center and the online application, which was fairly easy to fill out and get applications in that way, we hoped to be able to take care of as many people as possible, ' he said.

“What we saw after we opened in May and saw a low number of people go into that June, July figure, that’s when we realized we needed to change our processes.”

SC Housing did announce streamlined measures in mid-August through relaxing documentation requirements, adding staff for the program helpline, and partnering with resources centers to take applications in person.

Winston said SC Stay Plus has 8,000 to 9,000 outstanding applications in the system and expects that number to grow with the end of the moratorium.

“We’re going to see a lot of our neighbors, a lot of residents in South Carolina face a triple threat of having the Delta variant surging, numbers being scary, we have a lot of kids who are being sent back home, being quarantined, having to not be able to be at school, and having this eviction moratorium ending. I think the combination of those three things is going to make things challenging,” he said.

S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center Director Sue Berkowitz said she is working to connect communities with resources to access the aid, and expressed disappointment at the court’s ruling and the aid roll-out speed.

“It’s time for both the business community, our policymakers to step up and encourage landlords to work with tenants so that we can make sure people are not displaced,” she said.

She said communication and education have lacked in the aid process.

“We need to help people understand any program and how to apply, and a new program is twice as difficult, especially during these times when everybody is so isolated,” she said.

Landlord groups pushed for the ruling, and Greenville Property Manager Matt Foster said it will help ease the pressure on that community.

“They’re still having to pay the mortgage. They’re still having to pay expenses, yet they don’t have the rental income to help. There’s a misperception that all landlords are rich, most of our clients only have one or two rentals,” he said.

He said he is hopeful the ruling will push more renters toward the assistance and does foresee evictions if renters don’t qualify for the help.

Resources for SC Stay Plus can be found here.

Resources for the Richland County rental assistance program can be found here.

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