Nashville Mayor John Cooper applied on behalf of Nashville and Davidson County to receive much needed funding through the U.S. Department of the Treasury for the Emergency Rental Assistance program.
The Metropolitan Action Commission (MAC) will administer the emergency program for the county as a part of its HOPE (Housing, Opportunity, Partnership and Employment) Program. The housing assistance will help renters impacted by COVID-19 catch up on past due payments that are behind as much as 12 months.
To ensure the program prioritizes residents who are most urgently in need of assistance, the agency will implement the program in three phases:
- Phase 1 (begins March 1) addresses the 1,800 individuals currently facing filed evictions in the city’s General Sessions Court. Through a partnership with Judge Rachel Bell, the LEGACY Housing and Resource Diversionary Court and Metro General Sessions Clerk Richard Rooker, residents will have the opportunity to mediate nonpayment cases with the assistance of the Nashville Conflict Resolution Center. After the repayment agreement is achieved, residents are then matched with Metro Action or other community organizations to work out payment for qualifying applicants.
- Phase 2 (begins March 8) addresses approximately 500 individuals who have applied for multiple months of rental assistance through Metro Action, but funds had been depleted before their applications could be being processed.
- Phase 3 (begins March 15) addresses applicants throughout Davidson County needing assistance with rent and past due utilities who may apply through a new application portal on Hub Nashville and the Metro Action Commission web sites.
Metro Action met with community partners, financial assistance organizations and landlords to focus on a streamlined and coordinated approach to meet Davidson County residents’ needs.
The newly created HOPE portal system will enable applications to be submitted fully online 24 hours per day, seven days per week and allow both the landlord and the tenant to initiate the application and receive status updates.
To qualify for the HOPE program, the applicant’s income must be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic but not before March 13, 2020. This funding also expands Metro Action’s current energy assistance program by paying for utility accounts that are up to 12 months past due.
The program also allows for families with higher incomes to qualify. Residents earning up to 80% of the Area’s Median Income (AMI) are eligible to apply. The amount of income allowable increases based on the number of household members (complete allowable income chart attached).
“Although some Davidson County residents have returned to work, they are still attempting to recover and cannot move forward with paying current bills because they are still struggling to pay past due bills. The same is true for those still seeking employment. These dollars allow us to strengthen recovery opportunities and help residents through this traumatic time” Dr. Cynthia Croom, executive director of Metro Action, said.
To ensure that funding goes to as many families earning lower than the max, the agency will set aside 60% of its funding for individuals at 50% AMI and below. The agency will also prioritize individuals who have been unemployed for at least 90 days.
“We’ve been in this pandemic for over a year. We recognize that when crisis hits, the residents who are the most impacted tend to be those already in the lower income strata. Still others with slightly higher incomes, have depleted savings and reserve in order to survive during a pandemic that is far reaching and has lasted for much longer than expected,” said Croom.
Metro Action’s new HOPE team began this week. The call center team will work remotely, which means they will not be housed at the agency’s downtown location although support team members will be present to assist individuals struggling with the online application M-F effective March 15, 2021. The team will also be available by dialing 615-862-RENT (7368) from 7am until 7pm, Monday through Saturday after March 8.
Metro Action expects to serve approximately 5,000 residents before the program ends on December 31, 2021. For complete details on the Metro Action’s HOPE program visit the agency’s website on March 1 at <www.nashville.gov/mac>.