COLUMBIA, S.C. — Help will soon be on the way for many South Carolinians struggling to pay rent.
At the State House, a bill that brings rental and utility assistance to South Carolinians is getting closer to becoming law. Once it passes and is signed by the Governor, hundreds of millions of dollars will be available for eligible tenants and landlords.
Many people, like Lexington County mother Cindy Freeman, are still hurting financially from the pandemic.
"It's been a nightmare" said Freeman. "All you can do is just take one breath at a time, and just, you know, take it one step at a time and just do what you have to do and get by. It's not been easy. It's been hard trying to stay afloat."
Freeman said she was laid off just a few months ago. Now, rent and utility bills are piling up for the home she lives in with her husband and children.
"When I lost my job, I thought I was just going to drown," Freeman said. "And I'm not used to asking people for help. It's really hard."
Now, financial assistance will soon be on the way for many people going through the same thing, according to Chris Winston with SC Housing.
"We know people are hurting, there’s help needed, and our agency is working as quickly as it can to make sure that help gets out to folks as soon as we possibly can," Winston said.
SC Housing is a state agency that will help disperse over $270 million in rental and utility assistance to struggling families once they get approval from lawmakers.
House Bill 3770 will allow the agency to start their next rental assistance program, funded by the U.S. Treasury, once it's passed. The money will go to all South Carolina counties that don't currently have their own programs.
"We believe in a matter of mere weeks, we’ll be able to get a program launched and ready to go," said Winston.
Under federal guidance, the program can pay for up to 12 months of past due rent and utility bills, and may pay up to 3 months in future bills.
"I would love that. I’d be grateful," said Freeman when News19 informed her of the program.
"It’s meant to go to landlords, but it’s on behalf of the tenants and it’s meant to protect tenants from eviction," explained Winston. "So, it’s really a partnership the two have to enter into to provide information and paperwork to the processing agency to make sure payments get made as quickly and easily as possible."
Once the funds are okayed by the General Assembly and the Governor, eligible residents will be able to apply for them through SC Housing.
To be eligible, you must qualify for unemployment or have had financial hardship due to COVID-19 and be at risk for housing instability.
SC Housing told News19 they'll put out more information on how to apply once they get the okay from lawmakers.