Madison County Rental Assistance program arrives after five months of waiting
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - $5.2 million is now ready to be doled out to people who need help paying rent in Madison County.
The money will go to people who can prove they are behind on rent because of a COVID-related reason. For the first 90 days, the money will only be open to people in Madison County who live outside of Huntsville City limits and closed off to those inside of Huntsville city limits. There are several other requirements to be eligible for this money.
Madison County has had this money for more than five months now, and while the Madison County Commission figured out the program, people in need were being evicted.
“These are tenants who would have stayed in their homes if this program would have brought their rent current,” said Holly Ray, Managing Attorney at Legal Services Alabama.
Ray said the eviction moratorium does not cover the renewal of leases so landlords can evict tenants who haven’t been paying their rent when their lease expires, even if they were protected by the CDC Eviction Moratorium before.
“These are very real people, there are dozens of them in Madison County,” Ray said. “I’ve got a client in Hazel Green, I’ve got a client in the City of Madison, this program would have saved their home.”
Ray said she’s not frustrated with landlords who are evicting, they’ve got businesses to run.
“Applications just take time and landlords have gotten impatient and who can blame them when they’re dealing with multiple months of unpaid rent,” she said. “There’s only so long you can say the proverbial check is in the mail.”
Now, there is another ticking clock. The CDC Eviction Moratorium is set to expire on June 30, Ray said it could get extended but signs are pointing toward no.
Ray is worried Madison County won’t be able to get checks cut before July and this could lead to even more people being evicted.
She said her caseload is usually at 80 to 100 for eviction cases but right now it’s double and many of these people need help.
”I’m at 174 right now, and that is true of a lot of our lawyers,” Ray said. “Because a lot of these cases went to court, clients testified, they were eligible for CDC relief and the cases got continued. This thing expires and we get to July these cases are going to wake up and these people are going to be evicted without some kind of action.”
Ray said there are still people struggling to work and pay rent for multiple reasons.
“The main thing we’re hearing right now is childcare, a lot of your summer camps, day camps and certainly at your low-income level or working poor level only had a certain amount of slots and when those filled up there was no more room,” Ray said.
For others, they feel unsafe with COVID_19 still around. Ray said she has clients for who the vaccine isn’t as effective or who have high-risk children at home who aren’t eligible for the vaccine yet.
Ray said there also people with what she calls “revolving back balance.”
“We’ve got folks that are back at work now but their rent from last May, last June, the landlord couldn’t evict over it because of the moratorium, but it’s still sitting there and it’s drawing late fees,” she said.
Ray said she hopes the Madison County rental assistance program will prioritize people who are most at risk of eviction and fulfill their applications first.
If you plan to apply for Madison County rental assistance it’s important to know you can’t “double-dip.” Meaning if you already have an application for state rental assistance and have not heard back, you would have to withdraw your state application and submit proof you withdrew it when you submit your application for Madison County rental assistance.
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