By Blake Spurney
Harvey County Now
NEWTON—A new state program will provide bill assistance to help Newton and Harvey county residents with mounting debts.
The Kansas Housing Resources Corporation is overseeing the Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance program state which will launch March 1.The program is eligible to those who have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. To qualify, a household must have an income 80% below the area median income and have past-due rent and/utilities and must have received an eviction notice. Lastly, applicants must have had a COVID-19-related economic impact, such as loss of job, reduced hours or tips, or an increase in child-care or medical expenses.
The City of Newton announced the unveiling of the KERA program through its social media presence. The announcement noted that renters and landlords must apply online together. Approved applicants will be eligible for up to 12 months of rent.
Erin McDaniel, director of communications for the city, said she learned about the program from Zach McHatton, community development director for the city. She said the city didn’t have information about how many people might be behind on their rent or utilities. She said the city was keeping tracking of those behind on their city utility bills when the economic shutdown took place last spring.
McDaniel noted that the eviction moratorium in place kept people in their homes, but it didn’t stop other bills from piling up. She said the KERA program was designed to help with that.
McDaniel said Harvey County had fared better economically than some regions, based on data like the unemployment rate and sales tax revenue.
“Sales tax numbers were very strong in Newton because people weren’t going to Wichita as much,” she said. “They were staying home and buying groceries.”
McHatton said he wanted to get word out about KERA after seeing a webinar. The program is being funded by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
“More or less, we just know there’s a need out there,” he said.
Anyone interested in applying for the program can visit https://kshousingcorp.org/emergency-rental-assistance-2/.