No rental assistance program in sight for Madison County

The Madison County Commission will discuss their plan during a meeting on Apr. 14.

Posted: Mar 30, 2021 8:06 PM
Updated: Mar 30, 2021 10:48 PM

It's now been more than two months since Madison County was awarded $5.2 million to help landlords and those struggling to pay rent. However, the commission still has no plan in place to set up its emergency rental assistance (ERA) program.

The Madison County Commission is essentially starting over in its process to set up the program. Commissioner Violet Edwards told WAAY 31 she had a plan in place where that money would be distributed by local nonprofits. However, the commission did not vote on the plan because they wanted to make sure the entire application process was legal and that the money was distributed correctly.

Meanwhile, people in the county are having to anxiously wait to get access to that federal aid.

"There was just no way I could pay rent," Paige Martin said.

She lost her job last March during the pandemic. She had to move in with family at around that time because she could not afford living on her own.

"I feel very fortunate because I know a lot of people who do not have family members. They don't have anybody they can rely on," Martin said.

A year later and Paige is just now starting to get back on her feet. She recently moved into her own place in Huntsville and even started a new job last week, but Paige knows it's not like that for everyone.

"I know people working for the state right now that they can't afford rent," Martin said.

The CARES Act provided millions of dollars to states across the country to assist those who need help. Alabama received $263 million. The act also funded separate programs for Huntsville and Madison County. Now, the state and Huntsville have already set up their ERA programs, but Madison County has not.

Just last week, the county commission issued an emergency request proposal to find a person who will be responsible for all grant-related activities. It expects to select that person by the next commission meeting on Apr. 14. However, it's still unclear how much time will pass before an actual plan on distributing the funds will be in place.

Commissioner Violet Edwards says she doesn't expect the program to be up and running next month—meaning people in Madison County will only have to wait some more.

While Paige has access to the Huntsville rental assistance program, she says she personally knows that feeling of need.

"It's just very important that people get help," Martin said.

The funds will be eligible through September 2022. Since Madison County's program is not operating at this time, people in the area can apply to the state ERA program. However, the website says the program only might take your application. We reached out to the state ERA program for clarification and are waiting to hear back.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says more than 11 million families are behind on their rent or mortgage payments. 2.1 million families are behind at least three months of mortgage payments, while 8.8 million are behind on rent. The last time this many families were behind on their mortgages was during the Great Recession.

The CDC did extend the federal eviction moratorium until the end of June. It was set to expire this Thursday. This is the second time the moratorium was extended.

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