A “how to” guide to Jefferson County’s emergency rental assistance program

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Jefferson County Alabama Courthouse
Jefferson County Courthouse. Photo via Jefferson County Commission Facebook page

If you are a Jefferson County renter who is unable to pay your rent and utility bills because you have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, help is on the way. 

Last month, the Jefferson County Commission approved $11.5 million in contracts to spend the federally funded Emergency Rental Assistance Program for Jefferson County renters who live outside the Birmingham city limits. Birmingham has its own program you can access here: https://www.birminghamal.gov/covidrent

A life changing program, the County has partnered with three trusted community based organizations that will manage the initiative. They are:

Do you know someone who needs assistance? Here is a “how to” guide for friends and family in need of assistance.

You Are Not Alone

Vestavia Apartments
Image courtesy of Treetop apartments

Anthony Barnes, with the Urban League, wants people to know they are not alone in needing support.

“These resources are  vitally important. Most of us have been impacted in so many ways by COVID.  I don’t think there is a person that lives in the nation and possibly in this world that hasn’t experienced some impact (by COVID) on family members or even themselves. As it relates to this program in order to get folks back and make folks whole it is going to take a very long time.” 

Eligibility and Guidelines

Apartment Birmingham
Apartment complex near Rhodes Circle on Southside Birmingham. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

How do you find out if you qualify for assistance?  

To be eligible for the program citizens must be able to show the following:

  • You are a resident of Jefferson County, outside of the Birmingham city limits
  • Have a household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income
  • Be at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability
  • Document a financial hardship (COVID-19 impact) by meeting one of the following:
    • Qualified for unemployment benefits
    • Experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or document a financial hardship due to COVID-19

Help is limited to 12 months, however in some cases an additional three months of assistance may be provided to ensure housing stability.  Expenses can only be paid if they are due on or after March 13, 2020. Based on need, the program may also pay for up to three months of future rent and utilities. Expenses that can be covered: 

  • Rent 
  • Electricity 
  • Gas
  • Water 
  • Sewer
  • Trash removal 
  • Home energy costs including propane and fuel oil
  • Other costs related to housing including internet expenses paid to the unit (but not cable, home phone or cell phone) and reasonably accrued late fees

Two Ways to Apply

Rental Assistance webpage
Jefferson County Emergency Rental Assistance Program webpage. Photo via Jefferson County

There are two ways you can apply for assistance.

If you have access to the internet, Jefferson County has set up an Emergency Rental Assistance Program website at: https://erap.jccal.org (if you live in the city of Birmingham their website is  www.birminghamal.gov/covidrent).

If you prefer to talk to a person, call one of the three partner agencies directly.

Triple the Assistance

Emergency rental assistance
Sugar Bush Apartment Complex in Birmingham. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

According to Barnes, this is the second installment of funds made available to assist Jefferson County residents with rent and utility bills. 

Back in October and November the partner agencies were able to appropriate $2 million to approximately 700 households. On average, the assistance ranged from $2400 to $2700. The newest round of rental assistance funds triples the amount of monies available to serve people in need.

You’re looking at serving approximately 2100 households if we average the same assistance as in the fall, ” added Barnes.

Fellow community partner Kelleigh Gamble, CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services of Birmingham concluded: 

 “We’ve seen so many people impacted by COVID-19, I don’t think people truly realize how widespread it is, because no one wants to talk about needing financial help.”

Apply

 Jefferson County and its team of community partners are ready to help. Apply online today.

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  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.