For rent

WASILLA — Alaska Housing Finance Corporation concluded the application period for housing COVID-19 housing assistance earlier this month. They’re currently processing approximately 2,500 applications from Valley residents with help from key partners like Valley Charities, Inc.

“I think that at the end of the day when the story is written months from now, the success we see in Alaska is going to be directly attributed to partnerships like the one we have with Valley Charities. Alaska Housing couldn’t do this alone,” Alaska Housing Governmental Relations and Public Affairs Director Stacy Barnes said.

This program is designed to support Alaskan renters who’ve been impacted by the pandemic for reasons like being laid off, lost hours, or increased expenses. Qualifying applicants can receive up to a year of rental and utility relief, with the possibility of extended assistance for an additional three months.

“We know that the pandemic has impacted Alaskans who’ve never before needed financial assistance. But, there’s nothing that will shake someone more than recognizing that where they thought they were stable in their home, suddenly an eviction notice is on their door and they are struggling to pay their rent every month, or they’re having to make choices about their food or their rent. That’s just an awful place to be,” Barnes said.

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. Payments go directly to landlords, property managers, and utility providers.

Alaska Housing Finance Corporation has been charged with administering the federally funded program on behalf of the State of Alaska but has key partners working behind the scenes, including Valley Charities.

The 2,500 Valley applications are part of 30,047 total submissions from across the state by the March 5 deadline. Alaska Housing is currently processing applications to verify identities, review required documentation, and issue payment to landlords and utility companies on the applicants’ behalf.

Valley Charities is a local organization that oversees the turn-A-leaf thrift store on top of a number of community outreach services focused on preventing homelessness and supporting low-income families.

According to Barnes, Valley Charities is one of several Alaskan partners working “behind the scenes” to help Alaska Housing effectively manage the new and encompassing endeavor.

“Working with organizations like Valley Charities has been really critical in helping us to verify information and get payments out to the landlords as quickly as possible,” Barnes said.

According to Barnes, each application was assigned a unique confirmation code and includes a follow up call to confirm that applications have the most up to date and accurate information related to income, rent, and utilities in an effort to prevent fraud and successfully connect with applicants. She said the Valley Charities team is currently making these follow up calls to Valley applicants on their behalf. She noted Valley Charities rent relief specialists send email and text messages to applicants to alert them of the incoming call along with the name of the individual handling their application.

“Valley Charities has consistently done good work to prevent homelessness in the Mat-Su Valley and they are a credible partner in our work to get payments to Alaskans under financial distress because of the pandemic,” Alaska Housing Finance Corporation CEO and Executive Director, Bryan Butcher stated in a recent press release.

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. Mike 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 that Alaska Housing has worked with Valley Charities Executive Director, John Rozzi and his team numerous times in the past, including the time period with the initial summer relief program.

AHFC’s mission is to provide access to safe, quality, and affordable housing across the state, and certainly John’s group does that in the Valley,” Barnes said.

For more information about this program, visit alaskahousingrelief.org or call the toll-free number 1-833-440-0420.

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

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