Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced Thursday that the city is making $4.5 million available for those struggling to pay rent and utilities. With the economic effects of COVID-19 hitting many Kansas Citians hard, the city will allocate funds to community organizations to work with those in need.
During the announcement, Mayor Lucas talked about the importance of housing for those in the community.
“I grew up knowing moving around. I grew up knowing that sometimes it was tough for my mother to pay the full rent, to make ends meet,” Lucas said. “And I also grew up knowing how hard it was if you have to relocate. So instead of having people get to a point where they are confronted with homelessness, instead of creating situations where people need to move, we want to be that bridge.”
The money comes from the $14.8 million the city received from the federal stimulus package passed in December.
There are certain eligibility requirements listed on the Kansas City website that must be met in order to qualify for the aid. One or more people renting in a household must have qualified for unemployment or taken a blow financially due to COVID-19. Someone in the household must have been showing a severe risk of homelessness, such as a utility past due or a rent or eviction notice. Additionally, someone must have a household income at or below 80% of the area median income.
Through the program, renters can receive assistance for up to 12 months. They can ask for three additional months if the household needs more time to ensure stability and funds are still available. Throughout the potential 12-month pay period, eligibility will be assessed every three months. The aid is only to be used for current or past due rent or utility bills and trash removal. The funds cannot be used to pay for other bills like cable or telephone.
The money will be distributed through community organizations like Save Inc., the Community Assistance Council and Metro Lutheran Ministries..
Diane Charity, the Board Secretary for KC Tenants, reacted skeptically to the news.
“We want them to be accountable for the four million dollars,” said Charity. “Are these agencies being accountable to the city when they say how much they are actually spending on the tenant or how much is going to administrative costs?”
Charity said this concern arose when the city promised eight million dollars late last year to be distributed through organizations for rental aid, only to see a small number of people being helped. When KC Tenants asked Mayor Lucas what happened to the money at a meeting in January, he did not have an answer.
“I don’t want to disparage everybody to say they don’t give some money out. I am sure they do,” said Charity. “I just would like to know the ratio of what is spent to hand a check to a renter for utilities or rent.”