Erie County grants totaling $10 million will assist those struggling to make their mortgage and rent payments as a result of Covid-19.
Renters and homeowners cannot be evicted or foreclosed upon for the remainder of this year because of Covid-19 protections, but that will not stop their bills from piling up and the money from being owed to landlords and banks. Eventually, those bills must be paid.
For that reason, the county administration is partnering with the City of Buffalo, the Erie County Clerk's Office and other agencies to ensure that families have resources to avoid being left homeless.
"That's why we decided to step up to the plate," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
Money for the grants will come from the federal stimulus funds awarded locally, with $5 million allocated each to renters and homeowners.
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County residents do not have to be broke to qualify for a grant, which will provide up to $3,500 per household.
A renter or homeowner could earn up to $42,405 a year in income and qualify for the grants, while a family of four could earn up to $81,549. A household of eight or more could earn up to $112,538 and still qualify. The calculations are based on 85% of the state median income level prior to the public health crisis.
The households have to document the loss or reduction of income due to Covid-19 after March 16.
County residents can apply for the program with assistance from 211 Western New York, which connects residents with community services, and the Live Well Erie Emergency Housing Task Force.
Mayor Byron Brown, County Clerk Michael "Mickey" Kearns, and representatives with the Department of Social Services and Homeless Alliance of Western New York praised the effort.
"We will continue to work together on behalf of this community," Brown said.
Applications for the program will be taken starting Oct. 1. Poloncarz urged people to apply prior to December.
Applications may be taken online at www.211wny.org or by calling 211 to begin an application interview and assessment process.
Dale Zuchlewski, executive director of the Homeless Alliance, said the safest place for residents to be during this pandemic is in their homes. Once they become homeless, they start living with friends and relatives, then wind up in a homeless shelter, furthering the potential spread of Covid-19.
He added that the Homeless Alliance has been getting many calls regarding concerns about looming housing emergencies and that other housing resources will also be made available to residents in the future.