Durham plans to help hundreds struggling during pandemic with assistance with rent, utility bills

Durham plans to help hundreds struggling during pandemic with assistance with rent, utility bills

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) –Thousands of people in the Triangle are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic as many have lost their jobs or have had hours cut due to COVID-19.

But some relief is on the way in Durham County as city and county leaders are expected to put $9 million in federal funding toward a rental assistance program.

The funding is from the Consolidated Appropriations Act that passed late last year.

“There’s a lot of folks experiencing hardship,” said Mark-Anthony Middleton, a Durham city councilman for Ward 2.

Durham city leaders are expected to use $8 million in federal funds, county leaders are expected to kick in $1 million in federal funds, and they said the goal is to help hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals in Durham County, pay for rent and utility bills.

“We thought it would be better to combine our funds and work together,” Middleton said.

Middleton said the amount of assistance these families will receive will vary depending on each of their situations.

The program will be geared toward helping people who are unemployed, have experienced a reduction in pay, experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19, demonstrated a risk of experiencing homelessness, or has a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median income (AMI).

City and county leaders said the plan is to have this program up and running by mid-to-late March and more information will be released later on about how to apply.

“This is an absolute priority for us getting these funds turned around as soon as possible,” Middleton said. “There will be no foot-dragging on this.”

This program would help out people like Danita McMillan.

Danita McMillan (CBS 17 photo)

McMillan is a restaurant worker who is struggling to pay her rent.

“I haven’t lost my job, I’m currently working, but my hours have dropped a whole lot,” McMillan said. “I’m not able to buy food like I used to.”

McMillan said she is struggling to buy groceries and pay her other bills because a lot of her money goes to rent.

“Rent is my biggest concern right now,” McMillan said. “I don’t want to be homeless during a pandemic.”

The Durham County Department of Social Services has partnered with the City of Durham and the state of North Carolina on two housing programs that have already assisted hundreds of individuals with rental assistance.

These two programs include the Community Development Block Grant Cares Act and the HOPE program.

Officials with DCoDSS said they have processed 1,800 HOPE applications and authorized over $5.5 million in rental assistance and $1 million additional dollars in utility assistance.

Officials said that 389 CDBG-CV applications have been processed and $1 million has been distributed in this program.

Overall, DCoDSS officials said they have authorized over $7.5 million in benefits through these programs.

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