KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — While the COVID-19 pandemic is easing up if you’re a renter still having trouble paying your rent or utilities created by the pandemic, help is still available.
Nearly $30 million in federal aid has yet to be distributed to qualified families and individuals in Knoxville and Knox County with millions more dollars are available in other counties of East Tennessee.
The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance, or ERA program, is available for all East Tennessee counties through the Tennessee Housing Development Agency. In cities, like Knoxville, there are individual programs ready to help people who qualify for rental assistance due to the pandemic.
The ERA program allows local programs to cover rent, utilities, and home energy costs. This includes electricity, gas, fuel oil, water and sewer, and trash removal. If your landlord normally pays for utilities or home energy costs, these are counted as part of your rent. Some programs may also provide housing counseling, case management, legal representation, and other housing stability services.
So far Knox Housing Assistance Program, a joint city and county initiative, has provided about $25 million through its emergency rental program.
“It’s really been a benefit to the entire community. We have helped at this point. about 6900 households. We have paid past due rent and utilities to a little over 1100 landlords and utility providers here in Knox County,” said Jenny Holden, Knox Housing Assistance Director.
WATE has covered stories from those helped by the program including, Phyllis Nuchols and her daughter Tammy Hunley. The program was able to cover their delinquent rent after management at Amherst Ridge mobile home park sent an eviction notice to the pair.
“We can pay assistance for up to 18 months total. In certain cases, if there is a risk of housing instability, we can help those folks with their future rent as well as anything they have past due,” said Holden. “Housing instability is if you are at risk of possible eviction, if you are unemployed, if you have medical bills to a point where you are not going to be able to pay your rent next month, we can help you with that.”
“Those people are wonderful to help us. They help many people here in Knoxville,” said Hunley.
In Knoxville several non-profit agencies help people apply for rental assistance: Centro Hispano de East Tennessee Compassion Coalition, SEEED, KCDC, Knoxville Area Urban League, Home Source of East Tennessee, The Volunteer Ministry Center, Knox County Library partners, and if you call 211 an operator will answer your questions. The rental assistance comes from the federal government.
Holden said if you need help reach out to the Knox Housing Assitance or to the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, which runs the state-wide program for emergency rental assistance. Their website is THDA.org and their phone number is 844-500-1112. The funds that are available right now are set to expire on December 31, 2022 according to Holden.