HOPE program offers rental assistance for families impacted by COVID-19

DURHAM (WTVD) -- COVID-19 and the financial strain of it is overwhelming the state's Department of Social Service offices.

"It's a lot," said Janeen Gordon, DSS Assistant Director for Aging and Adult Services in Durham County.

Janeen leads Durham County DSS efforts to keep families in their homes, including people who have either lost jobs or had their hours slashed.

Last week, the agency began taking applications for a new statewide rental assistance program funded by the federally government called HOPE (Housing Opportunity to Prevent Evictions).

The program pays up to six months of rent and utilities.

In just six days of launching in Durham, Gordon's team has received more than 750 applications.

Fayetteville mother is one of 12,000 recent eligible applicants for HOPE program to pay off rent, utilities

"We are working really hard--not just within my division--but the other divisions at DSS to make sure anybody who needs help gets it," said Gordon.

The need is so great that Gordon's team has increased from 11 to 18 people in order to process applications.

The CDC has placed a stop on evictions but hat hasn't stopped landlords from filing notices in court.

CDC issues halt on evictions: What does it mean for renters and property owners?

The City of Durham contributed $1 million toward DSS and Legal Aid's emergency rental assistance program.

Gordon says since July, more than 100 families affected by COVID-19 have used $300,000 dollars of the existing fund.

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"It's really important for a variety reasons--for kids in school, for health care, for making sure you're having a good mental state that you stay in safe and stable housing," said Gordon.

To apply for the HOPE funds, North Carolinians in need of help should dial 211 first.

If you live in Durham and need emergency rental assistance contact DSS at 919-560-8000.

DSS officials said it is undetermined if Durham residents will get approved for both federal programs.
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