116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — As a federal ban on pandemic-related apartment evictions is expected to expire Saturday, Linn County and the city of Cedar Rapids are working with local groups to stall evictions and keep people housed here.
The eviction moratorium that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention enacted last September has prevented millions of tenants from being evicted while facing financial hardship and job loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the ban comes to an end, tenants who have fallen behind on rent payments now may face eviction. So local officials have put in place programs intended to prevent people from experiencing homelessness.
Starting Monday, Linn County is partnering with Iowa Legal Aid to maintain a physical presence at the Linn County Courthouse through its help-desk program. Iowa Legal Aid will provide legal assistance, as well as rent and utility assistance through Waypoint Services, on the spot to help prevent evictions.
Ashley Balius, Linn County’s community outreach and assistance director, told the Cedar Rapids City Council this week that landlords are more inclined to halt evictions if they have assurance that assistance is coming. This stopgap program covers two months of rent.
“If an eviction is stopped, we provide the assistance,” Balius said.
This gives the tenant until October, during which time he or she can apply for a full eviction prevention program that is set to begin Aug. 16 for Linn County residents.
Balius said this is a second iteration of the state’s eviction prevention program. Linn County residents will be filtered through the county emergency rental assistance program and no longer be eligible under the state program.
This will provide up to 18 months of rent and utility assistance — up to three months of which can be used for prospective rent, Balius said.
Those seeking aid will provide a self-attestation, which Balius said is a lower documentation burden than the existing state program. Individuals must have experienced some sort of financial impact since March 2020, so households grappling with financial impacts from last summer’s derecho may access this aid, also.
To access this assistance, residents must go to the Linn County Courthouse and be present for their scheduled eviction hearings, said Joi Alexander, the county communications director.
Local government entities and area organizations have worked in a collaborative group since shortly after the onset of the pandemic to meet community needs.
Cedar Rapids began its eviction prevention program last spring, leveraging $1.2 million in federal CARES Act funds and over $600,000 in federal Community Development Block Grants. The program helps low- to moderate-income households affected by COVID-19 with rent and utility assistance through direct payments to landlords.
“We know that evictions can impact future housing opportunities and create a barrier for up to seven years for households,” Sara Buck, Cedar Rapids Housing Services manager, told the City Council. “And then with the combination of the pandemic and the derecho that hit in Aug. of that same year, households had additional difficulty in finding housing.”
To date, $1.1 million in rental assistance and $58,000 of utility assistance has been distributed to 680 households. Community Development Director Jennifer Pratt previously said the city has about a year to spend the remaining funds.
The city coordinates assistance with local service providers as an entry point for those seeking aid.
Waypoint has served about 5,000 households with emergency housing services in the last year — over double the amount the organization typically serves, Buck said. HACAP is assisting households with the Iowa Finance Authority’s state application for rental assistance and has received 1,600 applications for rental aid in Linn County.
If people do end up being evicted, Buck said there will be 44 emergency housing vouchers available starting Sunday to allow the Continuum of Care to make referrals to HACAP, Waypoint and Willis Dady Homeless Services for households experiencing homelessness. This will operate similarly to the city’s Housing Choice Voucher Program and provide 18 months of rental assistance.
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department will decide at that time whether to continue funding those vouchers. If the department does not, Buck said continued assistance will be provided to voucher recipients through the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
Buck said those seeking aid should contact Waypoint (319-365-1458 or 319-366-7999), which will refer individuals to the correct program. She advised those facing eviction to contact Iowa Legal Aid (1-800-532-1275 or the COVID-19 Legal Advice Hotline at 1-800-332-0419) for assistance and to attend their eviction hearings in court.
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