Mercy House to help distribute funds from Northam’s rent assistance program

Mercy House will help the state distribute funds from Northam's rental assistance program.
Mercy House will help the state distribute funds from Northam's rental assistance program.(WHSV)
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 4:35 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Mercy House in Harrisonburg will be distributing money from Governor Northam’s Rent and Mortgage Relief Program. The program will use $50 million from the CARES Act to help people dealing with eviction or foreclosure because of COVID-19.

Mercy House executive director Shannon Porter said initially, they were seeing fewer clients at the beginning of the pandemic. Porter said it seems a lot of people were able to shelter in place once the pandemic began, and Mercy House worked with the families they had.

"As the economy has opened up, so has housing instability," Porter said. "We've seen a lot more movement of people needing to come in and access our shelter services."

Porter said the agency has been heavily involved in addressing the homelessness problem. After Open Doors closed, Mercy House worked to help some of the most at-risk people find new shelter. Porter said Mercy House has been selected to be the contractor for the Department of Housing and Community Development to distribute the funds from the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program. Porter said there is a need in the area for assistance.

"Even prior to the pandemic, our community, in my opinion, has been in the midst of a housing crisis, specifically an affordable housing crisis," Porter said.

He added rents have gone up and wages have not kept pace, so people were struggling before the pandemic.

"Now you have circumstances where a lot of folks were getting entry level wages, working either in a service industry, or as a cashier, or working in the restaurant industry, and now their source of income was cut out from underneath of them," Porter said.

When people are already struggling with housing, missing income for even a short period of time can be very difficult.

"The bills in our lives don't stop, and it can put people behind. So these resources are vitally important to give people a fair chance not only to sustain their housing but to get back on track," Porter said.

Governor Northam's program will be targeted to people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and applicants must prove they have been impacted. That includes being laid off, place of employment being closed, a reduction of work hours, or missing work because of contracting COVID-19, among other possibilities.

People must be able to show a valid lease or mortgage statement in their name or other documentation. They must also have a rent or mortgage amount that is at or below 150% of Fair Market Rent, and a gross household income at or below 80% of the area's medium income.

At the start of the program, households with a gross household income at or below 50% will be prioritized.

In order to apply for the program, you must be able to provide proof of income, like a pay stub, letter from employer, bank statements, or social security documents. They must also have their lease or mortgage agreement. Mercy House will be able to help applicants get the documents needed. If you think you may qualify for the program, Mercy House has a special hotline.

They’re asking people to call 540-216-2350. It is a voicemail dropbox, where people will be able to leave a message. The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development website also has resources for the program.

Copyright 2020 WHSV. All rights reserved.

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