City of Knoxville announces new COVID-19 rent, mortgage assistance program

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The city of Knoxville announced Monday that a new program was created to help residents with their overdue bills after historic job losses due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The city received $1.55 million as part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

RELATED: Coronavirus: Knoxville program to assist renters, homeowners with payments

The majority of those funds will be used to assist residents if they were unable to pay their rent or mortgage due to job loss or income loss because of COVID-19.

Becky Wade, the city’s Director of Housing and Neighborhood Development, said that after getting several calls from residents since businesses closed because of the pandemic, the city knew where those funds were needed the most.

“We felt like housing assistance was a real need that wasn’t being met to the extent that it’s needed. And with so many people losing their jobs, getting laid off, or being sick themselves and unable to work, we felt that this was a way the city could assist households with those expenses,” Wade said.

Only Knoxville residents are eligible for the housing assistance, but not every resident who lost their job or had a decrease in income are eligible.

According to Wade, the financial relief is available to those who earn up to 80% of the Area Median Income and lost employment or income due to COVID-19, or have been diagnosed and/or quarantined with COVID-19 and are unable to work.

The city created a chart detailing the income limits per household, which can be viewed on the city’s website here.

As an example, a household of two would be eligible if both incomes combined totaled less than $47,300 as of April 1.

The funds can be used for past rent or mortgage payments, current rent or mortgage payments, and past due utility bills.

“If someone couldn’t make their utility payments starting in April or May, even though KUB stopped shutting off utilities, those bills are still there and so people still need to make those payments,” Wade said.

Wade said the best way to find out if someone is eligible for the housing assistance, or to apply, call 2-1-1 or visit 211.org.

She said that the payments won’t directly go into the pockets of the renter or homeowner. Payments will be made directly to the landlord, mortgage servicer or utility provider.

Applicants currently receiving a housing subsidy that bases rent on income (i.e. KCDC/public housing and Section 8 voucher), will not be eligible for rent/mortgage payment assistance, but may qualify for utility debts if their utility bill is in their name and not included in their rent.

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