Madison County Commissioners postpone start of Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Emergency rental assistance program paused

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Our cameras were the only ones inside Wednesday’s Madison County Commission meeting, where the topic of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help renters during the pandemic, was up for debate.

“I put countless hours into this. The non-profits have put countless hours into this. I think this is a moment for me to step back. I’ll probably cut a little bit, pray a little bit and cry a little bit and then I will get up swinging and I absolutely want more information from these commissioners on why they don’t support us and I’m going to get some answers,” said Commissioner Violet Edwards.

Strong words from Madison County Commissioner Violet Edwards, when plans to move forward with the County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program were postponed.

All of the other county commissioners said they need more time before making a decision and signing contracts.

There was a news conference planned for Wednesday, with the commission and the city of Huntsville leadership teams.

They planned to share good news for people struggling to pay rent during this pandemic. That news conference was canceled after today’s decision to give other commissioners more time. Edward says it’s time people struggling don’t have.

“The time is now, and if there were questions to be asked, the non-profits were here, they could’ve asked questions. They got the documents, the same documents we receive before every commission meeting. If there were questions, they could’ve called me. There was time to do research and time to reach out to those nonprofits,” said Edwards.

During Wednesday’s Madison County Commission meeting, with the topic of Emergency Rental Assistance, it was Violet Edwards against the rest of the commission.

She says the people who will suffer are people who need help paying their rent.

“On Monday, there were 800 people on the docket for eviction. People are still being evicted and we can offer them assistance right now,” said Edwards.

Commission Chairman Dale Strong, spoke on behalf of the other commissioners to explain their point of view.

“I believe the Commission wants to have a little further dialogue to understand exactly, who will be eligible for the $5.2 million in Madison County received. The city of Huntsville I believe receive $6.4 million. We want to be sure that we’re not duplicating services,” said Strong

Employees with Legal Services of Huntsville have been working with Violet Edwards to help roll out the program. They say the clock is ticking.

“The CDC eviction moratorium which is currently allowing tenants to stay in their homes, despite not paying rent is due to expire on March 31. The other thing that will expire on March 31, is the state of Alabama currently has these rental emergency funds. For 30 days they’re allowing Madison County residence to apply. They will no longer do that after March 31, because that’s when our local funds should be distributed. If our local funds are not given by then, the Madison County residents will not have a way to access federal rental aid,” said Attorney Holly Ray.

WAFF talked with employees with the city of Huntsville. They’ll be rolling out their plan for city residents soon.

Madison County Commissioners say they’ll vote on the county rental assistance program at their next meeting.

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