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The Southeastern Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority is accepting applications for financial help from Dodge County residents to help pay for rent, mortgage and other related expenses. These expenses must be incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash)

Just because your paycheck stops during the pandemic, does not mean rent and mortgage will too. For some, the concern about how they will pay the bills is a very real challenge, but one organization is doing their part to make it a little easier for local renters and homeowners.

The Southeastern Minnesota Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (SEMMCHRA) is providing emergency assistance grants, up to $5,000 to Dodge County residents impacted by COVID-19 (Blooming Prairie is partially located in Dodge County). SEMMCHRA also serves Wasbasha, Goodhue and Winona counties.

The authority’s website reads, “Our housing objective at SEMMCHRA is to provide affordable, decent, safe and sanitary housing to citizens residing in our service area. This is accomplished through rental assistance, family self-sufficiency programs, rental and single-family property rehabilitation, first time homebuyer loans and down payment assistance.”

SEMMCHRA is currently accepting applications for individuals who need help with expenses, like rent, mortgage payments, utilities, mobile home rent, home insurance, homeowners association dues and other expenses. Applicants must have experienced economic hardship due to COVID-19. In addition, eligible expenses must have incurred between March 1, 2020 and Dec. 15, 2020.

“It’s first come, first serve,” Karen DuCharme, SEMMCHRA administrative development director said. She says applicants will need to apply by this fall.

A number of requirements must be met for funding to given, including:

• Demonstrate that the expenses were necessary and happened as a result of COVID-19 and during March 1 and Dec. 15, 2020.

• Rent or own the primary housing and be a resident or lawful permanent resident on the county providing the funds.

• Have had a household income at or below 115% of the state median income prior to COVID-19 (for households of one to two people that would be $91,800 per year and for households of three or more people that would be $105,570 per year, according to SEMMCHRA).

• Provide statements indicating current on housing and utilities as of March 1, 2020.

• Have a loss of income as a result of COVID-19 that has not been replaced.

• Apply funds to delinquent amounts of eligible expenses and potentially, up to three months of non delinquent expenses.

When asked about the total funding amount available, DuCharme said it is constantly changing.

“I just signed off on three or four other applications so it’s constantly changing, but we’re finding that there are plenty of funds,” DuCharme said.

People can apply online or download a PDF version of the application at https://bit.ly/3gJQooo. An application checklist can also be found on that page.

The SEMMCHRA office is close to the public at the moment, but according to DuCharme more information about program guidelines can be found by contacting Amy Gusa at 651-565-2638 (extension 222) or email at agusa@semmchra.org. Gusa is SEMMCHRA’s intake housing specialist. More information about the program can also be found at semmchra.org/covid-19.

Dodge County has 3,553 unemployment insurance applicants from mid-March to Aug. 27, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Across the state 928,038 unemployment insurance applicants have been counted since March 16, 2020. DuCharme strongly encourages people struggling to pay for eligible expenses to apply to the program.

“If they have any income lost due to COVID, they need to go on and apply,” DuCharme said.

{div class=”asset-tagline text-muted”}Reach reporter Ashley Rezachek at 507-444-2376. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.{/div}

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