For rent

WASILLA — Alaska Housing Finance Corporation launched a new rental relief and utility assistance program for renters across the state that have been negatively affected by COVID-19 Feb 16.

“I think it’s really critically important for Alaskans,” Alaska Housing Governmental Relations and Public Affairs Director Stacy Barnes said. “I think it’s just if we take a second to think about our friends and neighbors who’ve been impacted, even if it’s not ourselves. There’s somebody who comes to mind who might be able to benefit from this program, and it’s our desire that they know about it and have the opportunity to apply.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the Alaska Legislature authorized Alaska Housing to distribute up to $200 million in federal funds to eligible renters.

Qualifying applicants can receive up to a year of rental relief, with the possibility of extended assistance for an additional three months, according to a recent press release from Alaska Housing.

“A year into the COVID-19 pandemic these funds will go a long way to help Alaskans with emergency rent relief and assistance with utilities and home energy costs at a time when they need it most,” Alaska Housing CEO/Executive Director Bryan Butcher stated in the press release.

To qualify, renters must meet the criteria of being at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income to be calculated with their COVID-19 hardship.

The amount of assistance varies by applicant. Barnes said that rent and utility payments go directly to landlords, property managers and utility providers. She said it’s only available to renters who’ve been impacted by the pandemic for reasons like being laid off, lost hours, or increased expenses.

There are a whole range of things that may have happened in a person’s life that created increased costs or lost income,” Barnes said. “There’s a lot of people who’ve never used public assistance before, so participating in a program like this is something that they’ve never considered. But, certainly, the situation is different this time. People are experiencing financial hardship through no fault of their own.”

The rental and utility assistance funds draw from $25 billion of emergency housing assistance from the FY2021 Omnibus and COVID Relief and Response Act. Alaska’s portion was distributed by the U.S. Department of Treasury through the Coronavirus Relief Fund to tribal housing authorities, the Municipality of Anchorage, and Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

Gov. Dunleavy submitted a request to utilize the funding to The State of Alaska’s Legislative Budget and Audit Committee who authorized Alaska Housing to expend up to $200 million in federal funds that fall under the legislation Jan. 17.

According to Barnes, this is the second time in the last year Alaska Housing was approached to administer federal funds for COVID-19 housing assistance. She said they received $10 million of CARE funds to operate a rental and mortgage relief program during the summer.

Barnes said they launched the webpage for the online application Tuesday, and encourages anyone who think they may qualify to apply now. She said it only takes about three minutes for applicants to find out they’re eligible.

The deadline for applications is March 5. For more information, call 833-440-0420 or visit alaskahousingrelief.org

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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