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Staying at home: Financial assistance, eviction moratoriums help thousands in N.C.

While tenants cannot currently be evicted, this is not a free pass to simply not pay rent.
While tenants cannot currently be evicted, this is not a free pass to simply not pay rent.(Source: WAFB)
Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 4:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Last fall, in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced the HOPE program, which would provide federal money to people unable to pay their rent and utility bills.

The governor also issued an executive order that would halt evictions during these trying times.

In March, Cooper extended the prevention of evictions for people who can’t afford rent through June 30.

Answers to frequently asked questions about the order can be found here.

The extension of North Carolina’s statewide residential eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021 coordinates with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recent extension of the nationwide moratorium through the same date.

As renters struggled to stay in their homes due to pandemic hardships, Gov. Cooper created the HOPE Program to make direct payments to landlords and keep people safely in their homes.

To date, HOPE has awarded over $133 million to more than 36,000 applicants.

But what will happen once the moratorium ends across the state, especially here in Charlotte?

New numbers from the City of Charlotte show 31,795 households applied for rental, mortgage, and utility assistance through the city’s Ramp program while only 11,400 have been approved.

Back in March, the North Carolina office in charge of administering a program designed to help people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic catch up on rent and utility bills changed how it handles cases, while more than $60 million meant to help people sat unspent.

The initial allocation for the program was $160 million to North Carolina.

However, when these changes were made, just $94 million had been disbursed by the program as of, according to staff at the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, which oversees the HOPE grants.

The biggest change was that NCORR took over managing all of the HOPE grant files. Previously, the state agency was partnering with nonprofit organizations across the state for case management.

Officials said NCORR was working to set up a call center so people could be connected with their caseworkers by phone.

These changes come as the HOPE program receives additional federal funds and looks to continue as people continue to reel from the pandemic.

WBTV reported Monday that some places are close to closing because people are refusing to pay for their stays.

The general manager of Southern Comfort Inn on Tuckaseegee Road says the governor’s moratorium on evictions, along with stimulus checks from the federal government, are enabling some people to live without accountability.

She says roughly half of her guests are not paying, and as a result, she cannot pay utilities.

“Initially we were a regular hotel,” general manager Traci Canterbury Jones told WBTV. “During the great recession, we realized the lack of affordable housing. We started renting to people on a low and fixed income at that time.”

The Southern Comfort Inn continues to offer extended stays to people on a low and fixed income.

Millions across North Carolina, and the country, lost jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore, homeowners and renters needed assistance to keep a roof over their heads.

Last September, the federal government announced a moratorium that prevents landlords from evicting tenants because of not having enough money.

That was followed in October by North Carolina’s executive order that allows people to stay in their homes.

As of now, both moratoriums are set to expire at the end of June.

“As North Carolina continues a fast and fair vaccine distribution operation, it is critical to slow the spread of the virus. With many people struggling financially due to this pandemic, the State’s eviction moratorium halts evictions for nonpayment of rent and sets forth certain procedures for landlords and their tenants who may qualify for protection from eviction,” a statement from Gov. Cooper’s office read.

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