Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper and Chief Operating Officer of the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR) Laura Hogshead shared an update Wednesday on the application process for the N.C. Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions (HOPE) Program.
The program is open for a second application period to assist very low-income renters that are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. The HOPE Program provides rent and utility bill assistance to prevent evictions and utility disconnections.
“I strongly encourage landlords and utilities across our state to lend a hand to their communities and to participate in these programs so that we can keep people in their homes with their lights on,” Cooper said. “I am proud that North Carolina is taking steps to support families who need it as we emerge from this pandemic.”
The current HOPE Program is serving very low-income renters in 88 North Carolina counties. Very low-income is defined as earning less than or equal to 50 percent of the area median income for the county where the renter lives. Twelve additional counties and five tribal governments received money directly from the federal government to operate their own programs.
In the last two weeks, more than 8,000 people have applied for financial assistance and as of Wednesday $9.5 million has been awarded. Payments began on June 1 and 924 checks for a total of $1.1 million have been mailed to help North Carolinians in need. Payments are expected to continue to go out on a rolling basis every business day. Previous applicants who received help can re-apply if they still need assistance.
North Carolina initially launched the HOPE Program last fall, using flexible federal CARES Act funds to keep low-income people struggling during the pandemic in their homes and their utilities turned on. In total, the program awarded $133 million to more than 36,000 applicants. Congress subsequently recognized the outstanding need for rent and utility assistance and passed additional funds in the two stimulus bills, including the American Rescue Plan.
“In advance of this second application period, HOPE Program processes have been streamlined to ensure people get help as quickly as possible,” Hogshead said. “Our goal is to continue to provide housing stability while our state recovers from impacts of the pandemic.”
Complete details about the HOPE Program, including eligibility requirements, program benefits and an online application, are available at www.hope.nc.gov. Applicants who cannot access the website may also call (888) 9ASK-HOPE or (888) 927-5467.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy K. Cohen also joined the governor today and provided an update on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts. As part of its ongoing effort to get more North Carolinians vaccinated and safely bring summer back, NCDHHS is offering $25 Summer Cash Cards at select vaccine sites to offset the time and transportation costs of getting vaccinated.
To date, over 8.3 million doses have been administered in North Carolina, with 54.3 percent of adults partially vaccinated and 49.2 percent of adults fully vaccinated. Some 79.9 percent of the 65 and older population have been partially vaccinated.