COVID-19 relief grants offer rent, utility assistance

By Matt Clevenger

For Miami Valley Today

TROY — The Miami County Community Action Council is currently accepting applications for three different COVID-related home relief grants, extending rent/mortgage and utility bill assistance eligibility to include almost twice as many Miami County households as usual.

“A family of four that makes $60,550 annually or less is eligible,” CAC program specialist Renee Thuma said. “That’s huge. That’s a lot of people in Miami County who have never been eligible for this type of help prior to the pandemic assistance.”

Assistance is available for rent, mortgage payments, gas and electric bills, sewer, trash and internet bills. Applicants must reside in Miami County and have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic to qualify for home relief grants. Loss of work or available hours due to COVID-19, increases in childcare costs and loss of work to care for a loved one with COVID-19 are just a few of the many possible circumstances that qualify.

“It’s very broad and general,” Thuma said. “We do have a checklist that the state has given us. Some of the reasons might be loss of work or decrease in available hours, their work closed, inability to access or get to work, increase in childcare costs due to the childcare insufficiency here in Miami County due to COVID-19, forced to take off work due to school closures or childcare changes, self-quarantining, forced to take off work to care for a family member with COVID-19, experience of food insecurity, loss of financial health, fear or concern for their future economic health, security and stability.”

“One of them says ‘if I pay rent now, I might not be able to meet my or my family’s basic needs,” she said. “There are a number of reasons, they just have to be able to link back to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Miami County CAC offers similar assistance under normal circumstances, although $39,300 in annual household income is usually the maximum for a family of four to qualify. “It almost doubles the amount of income,” Thuma said. “Normally it is based on either 100% or 150% of the federal poverty level; $39,300 would be the normal limitation, and now it’s gone up to $60,550, so it’s almost doubled.”

“We are assisting people left and right,” she said. “We’ve got all hands on deck.”

The home relief grants have been available since last year. The first one became available November 1, and was supposed to end on December 31, 2020, but has been extended until December 31 of 2021. “There are three different home relief grants available right now,” Thuma said. “Some programs are being funded by the state, and different ones are being funded by the federal government or HUD.”

“Each program is a little bit different,” she said.

Applications for the home relief grants are available by calling the Miami County CAC office.

“What we’re preferring is if the applicant would give us a call directly here at the CAC,” said Thuma, who said the number is (937) 335-7921, and when the receptionist asks, just let them know you are applying for a home relief grant.

“When they call into our office, they will be notified as to what documentation they will be needing,” she said.

Rides to and from the CAC office are also available if needed. “Rides are offered for free, they just have to schedule them,” Thuma said. “We are working directly with the Miami County Public Transit Authority; they have grants that have allowed them to provide free rides to and from our building to pick-up or drop-off application materials for the home relief grants.”

“It’s unprecedented,” she said. “Families are struggling, but there’s help out there, they just don’t realize it because the parameters have expanded so much for the COVID-19 assistance relief.”

“We’re trying to get the word out,” she said. “We’re just hoping to get it out there, and help as many people as possible in Miami County.”