COLUMBIA, S.C. — For thousands facing eviction in the Palmetto State due to the coronavirus, a new program is helping pay the rent.
Starting Wednesday, $5 million is ready to distribute to thousands of South Carolinians to help them get back on their feet.
"Something like this comes along, someone gets sick, someone loses a job because the restaurant they were working at closed. It's not long before they're getting behind," said Clayton Ingram, Spokesperson for SC Housing. "We were hearing from legislators, we were hearing from renters from all over the state that this was becoming a problem."
Through the program, qualified applicants who are affected by shutdowns, layoffs, reduced work hours or unpaid leave due to coronavirus can receive a one-time $1,500 payment.
"We've had folks reaching out to us who have never had to ask for help before, because we know a lot of people in our state are in a newfound situation of need," said Liz Walsh, Regional Manager of the Midlands for SC Thrive.
Not all who apply can qualify. The COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program is income-based.
"You have to be at or below 80% of area median income," said Ingram. "I know that's a lot to get your head around, but it varies from county to county."
Applicants must also have documents to prove they're facing a financial hardship because of the pandemic. If you qualify, you'll get a one-time payment of $1,500 sent straight to your landlord.
"We're anticipating the money to go very fast because it's a first come, first serve. We're hoping with that people will see there is a need in South Carolina, and hopefully we'll be able to get additional funding," said Laurey Carpenter, Chief Strategy Officer for SC Thrive. "The bigger impact I'm hoping to see is that this can be a catalyst."
Program leaders encourage all to apply, stressing that many may not believe they qualify when they actually fit the criteria.
"There are no strings attached. You can consider it a grant. There will be no payback, we won't be looking to recover any of this money," said Ingram. "That's why they're emergency funds. We set it aside during an emergency to help people."
If you don't have access to the internet, SC Thrive suggests linking up with their partner sites, such as GRASP in Chester County, International Center of York County and Housing and Community Development Corporation of Rock Hill.
SC Housing hopes to process these online applications within 30 days.
*Funds are provided by SC Housing, who makes their own money from bond sales. Their board allocated $5 million toward an emergency rental relief program.