More than $10 million in rent and utility assistance has gone to 4% of Calhoun County since March 2021

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Editor’s Note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave’s On the Ground Calhoun County series.

Calhoun County residents who need help paying rent or utilities are encouraged to apply before an established portal for emergency rental and utility assistance closes in May, said Annette Chapman, senior vice president of the Battle Creek Community Foundation.

In March 2021, Calhoun County received its first allocation of $7.6 million from the Michigan State Department of Housing Authority (MSHDA) COVID emergency rental assistance (CERA). As the Continuum of Care for Calhoun Countythe Battle Creek Community Foundation (BCCF) is the trustee of the CERA program and Neighborhoods Inc. is the Housing Assistance Resource Agency (HARA) and they make the direct payments to those who are eligible, Chapman says.

Since receiving the first allocation, a collaboration of community agencies has supported the distribution of $10.4 million in direct financial assistance to 1,913 households, including 4,700 people, or 4% of Calhoun County residents, according to information provided in a press release.

But Chapman says the dollars available for direct financial aid are closer to $14 million.

“We initially received $7.6 million. MSHDA added more funding to this over time, so the grand total is $14.6 million. On top of that, they gave another round of funding in January called CERA 2 and that was $2.5 million on top of the $14 million,” Chapman said. “We’ve given out over $10 million now and we’re still doing these handouts because we have a lot of people in the queue.”

Even after the portal closes to access those dollars, Chapman says there are additional program funds available through the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, Community Development Block Grant and Housing Solutions Grant. emergency for people who meet the eligibility conditions to receive these funds.

The number of people receiving assistance and the total amount of direct assistance provided will continue to increase until approximately $14 million is distributed, the press release said.

The breakdown of those who received assistance in February 2022:

● Race and Ethnicity of Approved Households
○ 57% are people of color
○ 43% are white
○ 4% are Hispanic/Latino/a
● Age of household heads
○ 65% are 40 years old or younger
○ 29% are between 41 and 59 years old
○ 6% are 60 or older
● Approved household postcodes
○ 54% are in the Battle Creek zip codes (49015, 49017, 49014, 49016)
○ 29% are in Springfield/Battle Creek (49037)
○ 9% are in Albion (49224)
○ 4% are in Marshall (49068)
○ 1% in Homer (49245) and 1% in other ZIP codes in Calhoun County
Average household size: 2.4

On whether the need for this help will increase or decrease, Chapman says, “It’s hard to predict people and it’s hard to tell if there will be a need. I’d like to think that as the economy picks up, COVID numbers go down, and people get back to work, the need might decrease.

Chapman says people requesting and receiving this help may have lost their jobs or been laid off during the pandemic.

As funds are withdrawn, residents who need help paying rent and utilities are encouraged to contact Neighborhoods Inc. directly, (269) 968-1113 or www.nibc.org. Residents at risk of eviction are encouraged to contact South Central Michigan Legal Services, (269) 965-3951 or www.michiganlegalhelp.org.

Partner organizations that have supported this massive distribution of direct financial assistance include Neighborhoods Inc., Legal Services of South Central Michigan, the Housing Solutions Board, the Coordinating Council, Voces, The Southwestern Michigan Urban League, BCCF, Summit Pointe, Community Action of South Central Michigan and the Battle Creek Coalition for Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation.

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