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About $6.25 million will go specifically to help Mesa renters avoid eviction. Until now, that city program had made Mesa renters ineligible for the county program. (Photo: Getty Images)

Maricopa County is tapping more than $20 million of its federal COVID-19 relief funds to expand programs to help struggling renters, overstretched nonprofits and food banks keep up with rising demand.

About $6.25 million will go specifically to help Mesa renters avoid eviction. The East Valley city has a $1.1 million CARES Act program to help its residents with utilities but not rent payments. Until now, that city program had made Mesa renters ineligible for the county program.

Another $6 million will go to the county’s existing utility program to help more renters hurt by the pandemic pay gas, water and electric bills.

The county’s $30 million rent and utility-aid program, launched in mid July, has spent or committed about $8 million to help people so far.

A $5 million fund to help social service nonprofits struggling during the pandemic and economic downturn also is being set up. The funding, administered by the Arizona Community Foundation, will provide grants ranging from $25,000 to $200,000.

Food banks in the county will get the remaining $3 million.

Rent help in Maricopa County

Maricopa County Human Services Department Director Bruce Liggett said the renter and utility aid has been updated to require fewer documents to qualify and to provide more struggling renters with additional months of help.

“People who have who have never asked for help before need aid during the COVID crisis,” he said.

Renters in Maricopa County can receive $1,500 a month in rent aid by the end of the year through the expanded $36 million program. Previously, renters were limited to three months of help, but that limit was lifted.

Renters in Maricopa County can receive $1,500 a month in rent aid by the end of the year. (Photo: Getty Images)

Maricopa County requirements:

  • Incomes can be higher than what typical rent assistance programs allow. A household can make 300% of the federal poverty level, which is about $65,000 for a family of three.
  • Households can apply for funds for past-due rent between March and December of this year.
  • Applicants will need to submit: evidence of financial hardship due to COVID-19, a photo, lease agreement and household income.
  • Landlords of applicants must submit a verification form because they are paid directly.
  • Maricopa County renters can also get almost $1,000 to pay utilities. Previously that aid was capped at $850.

Other aid for metro Phoenix renters

The city of Phoenix also has a $20 million CARES Act program that it launched in mid July to help tenants and homeowners with as much as $3,300 in mortgage and rent help as well as $900 to pay utilities.

About half of Phoenix’s funds have been spent to help almost 2,500 families, said Cynthia Zwick, executive director of Wildfire, an Arizona nonprofit helping with Phoenix’s program.

Arizona’s statewide $5 million eviction-prevention fund, launched at the end of March, has helped almost 2,100 households with $3.9 million in rental aid.

A $5 million Arizona fund to help landlords hurt by COVID-19 and eviction bans ran out of money in early September.

Eviction bans

All of the renter-aid programs pay landlords directly. Many Arizona rental property owners also are struggling to pay their bills due to state and federal eviction moratoriums.

A federal eviction ban, which will keep most renters in their homes until 2021, went into effect in early September. The order is to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus by keeping renters from becoming homeless or from living in unsafe, crowded homes.

The federal order overrides Arizona’s eviction moratorium set to end Oct. 31, said Pamela Bridge, director of advocacy and litigation at the Arizona nonprofit Community Legal Services.

A federal eviction ban, which will keep most renters in their homes until 2021, went into effect in early September. The order is to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus by keeping renters from becoming homeless or from living in unsafe, crowded homes. (Photo: Rob Schumacher/The Republic)

Forms that renters, hurt by COVID-19, need to submit to the Arizona justice courts to avoid eviction can be found on the CLS website.

“We are grateful for the CDC eviction ban,” she said. “It will protect the public and help and stop eviction filings during this pandemic.”

But she and other housing advocates are encouraging struggling renters to apply for aid now because landlords are hurting as well, and back rents will be due at the beginning of 2021.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8040. Follow her on Twitter @Catherinereagor.

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