CASA GRANDE — Help is available to individuals as well as businesses during the coronavirus outbreak on making rent, mortgage and utility payments and access to the internet.
The Community Action Human Resources Agency in Eloy is the local partner for the state’s new Rental Eviction Protection Program, said CAHRA board President Jon Thompson in an email. The agency is receiving $150,000 to help renters in Pinal County. CAHRA has already received around 94 calls about the program.
“These funds will be able to help so many affected by furloughs or reduction in hours due to COVID-19,” said Thompson, who is mayor of Coolidge.
Last week Gov. Doug Ducey announced $5 million from the State Housing Trust Fund as part of the state’s new Rental Eviction Protection Program to help Arizonans who are struggling to make their rent payments.
The program is designed to help Arizona residents who have a primary home rented from a landlord or property management company. The program only pays a portion of the rent; renters are responsible for paying the rest.
The Arizona Department of Housing, which is in charge of the program at the state level, strongly urges renters to contact their landlord or property management company first to see if they can work out a payment plan.
In order to apply for the funds, renters have to meet certain eligibility requirements, he said. First, they have to fill out an application online at https://housing.az.gov/general-public/eviction-prevention-assistance.
If a renter doesn’t have access to a computer or to the internet, they can call CAHRA directly at 520-466-1112 for help. They will need to mention that they do not have access to a computer.
The application includes a number of questions that can help a renter determine if they are eligible for the program. If they are eligible, then the program connects them with someone at CAHRA.
There have been some problems with the website, Thompson said.
“The portal has some glitches and many from Pinal are being directed to other community action agencies. ADOH is repairing the issue,” he said.
Thompson asked that people applying be patient and if they have registered through the portal and not had a call from CAHRA within a week, that they call the agency directly.
One of the eligibility requirements is that a renter’s income has to be 100% or less of the annual median income for a family of their size in their county, Thompson said. Any unemployment or other federal benefits a family gets because of the coronavirus outbreak must be included in calculating income. The Arizona Department of Housing has a chart on its website to help renters figure out if they qualify. For Pinal County, that income level ranges from $51,041.67 for a single person to $96,208.33 for a family of eight or more.
The renter also has to show proof that they have lost income due to the coronavirus by losing their job, having their work hours cut or because they’ve been quarantined and that they don’t have the resources to pay their rent, he said. In order to prove this, a renter will have to provide a copy of their ID, a copy of their lease, a letter from their employer stating they’ve been laid-off, furloughed or had their hours cut, or a letter from their doctor saying they’ve been quarantined.
Thompson encouraged renters to fill out the application completely.
“Only fully completed applications that provide all required documentation will be reviewed for eligibility,” he said. “Applicants who receive a notice of incomplete application with instructions on missing information must successfully provide all necessary information to move their application forward. Incomplete applications shall be on hold until all information is received. Applicants who fail to provide all required information or are found ineligible based on the program’s requirements will not receive assistance. Applications that could be considered eligible may not receive assistance if funding is no longer available based on demand.”
The agency will notify the renter if they are found eligible for the program, Thompson said.
Renters who are approved for the program will still have to pay about 30% of their monthly household income toward the rent, he said. The state will pick up the rest. The state’s share is capped at $2,000. Renters with rent payments that are less than 30% of their monthly income are not eligible for the program.
Renters will have to apply each month for the benefit. Landlords and property management companies will get a payment as soon as possible, according to the Arizona Department of Housing website. The department encourages renters to get their share of the rent in as close to the date it is due as possible.
CAHRA also has programs to help county residents with paying utility bills, funding for minor housing repairs and help with finding housing for the homeless, and it manages the Santa Cruz Valley Food Bank.
A lot of local utilities are offering residents a break on their bills. Nearly all local utilities, Arizona Public Service Co., Arizona Water Company and Cox internet, have suspended disconnections for non-payment and late fees. Southwest Gas Corp. also is suspending disconnections.
All of the utilities are also offering some sort of assistance for residents who have had their income drop because of the virus outbreak.
APS has multiple programs available to help customers out including a specific COVID Customer Support Fund. The fund is available to customers who may be behind on their bill because of a drop in income, medical bills, child care expenses or other financial hardship. Customers can apply to the program by calling APS weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at 800-253-9405.
Customers can also call the company at 800-253-9409 to enroll in a payment plan that can allow customers to delay a payment.
APS also has a regular low-income and medical support program that can give customers who qualify a discount on their electric bill. To enroll in the program a customer has to show proof of income and for the medical program a doctor has to fill out part of the application.
The company also has a crisis assistance program that partners with organizations such as Wildfire and Chicanos por la Causa to provide up to $800 a year to help a customer pay off their bill. APS also offers $300 grants to customers through the Salvation Army as part of the company’s Project SHARE program.
The utility is also splitting a $1 million donation among the Arizona Community Foundation and various chapters of the United Way across the state. It is also matching, dollar-for-dollar, donations by its employees to the Arizona Food Bank Network.
Arizona Water Company also has an assistance program that gives low-income and active military members a $10 discount on their monthly water bill. To apply for the program, customers have to download a form from the company’s website at http://www.azwater.com/files/rates/cacr-1.pdf and mail it to their local office.
Southwest Gas offers a customer assistance program through CAHRA. Customers can also call the company at 877-860-6020 to ask about setting up a deferred payment plan if they are struggling to pay their bill.
Cox internet is offering a special discount on its Connect 2 Compete program for students in low-income households until May 15. New customers on the plan can get the first two months of access free and pay $9.95 a month after.
In order to apply for the program, a resident has to be a new Cox customer and have a child on the federal free and reduced lunch program or get housing aid from the federal government.
For new low-income customers who don’t meet those requirements, such as seniors or college students, Cox is offering a $19.99 contract-free Starter internet plan.
The company is also opening its Wi-Fi hotspots to the public, eliminating data usage overages, increasing download speeds for customers in its lower tiered packages and offering free assistance through its Cox Complete Care remote desktop support to lower tiered packages to help customers connect with work and school.
Customers can contact Cox online at cox.com or visit their local Cox store.
There is also federal help for homeowners with a mortgage. The Federal Housing Finance Agency suggests homeowners who need a break on their mortgage payments contact their mortgage lender as soon as possible to see if they can work out a plan.
If a homeowner has a mortgage that is owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, they may be able to delay their mortgage payments for up to a year without a late fee and without impacting their credit or causing a foreclosure on their home, according to the FHFA’s website.
Homeowners can ask their lender if their loan is through either Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae or look up their loans online at https://www.knowyouroptions.com/loanlookup or https://ww3.freddiemac.com/loanlookup/.
The homeowner will still have to make the mortgage payments, including interest, up at the end of that year.