When the Fresno City Council first approved a Housing Retention Grant in May for $1.5 million, the response was overwhelming, said Council President Miguel Arias.
“Within a week of announcing the housing retention program, we had 14,000 residents inquire about completing an application,” he said.
The grant helps struggling renters and homeowners affected by the pandemic pay for housing costs including rent or mortgages.
This month the city council voted to add another $3.5 million to the program, thanks to federal CARES Act funding.
That allows qualified applicants to receive more money, increasing an individual grant from $1,500 to $3,000 and household grants from $3,000 to $4,500.
Arias said this allows room to cover other costs.
“Some individuals had been paying their rent, but they were extremely behind on their utility payments, and vice versa,” he said.
The funding also goes to six Fresno nonprofits to help process applications. Reading and Beyond is one of them. Executive Director Luis Santana said his organization has already helped get more than 200 grants approved. This additional funding will also go to beef up his staff.
“The first time was very limited for us to do the operations and have the staff. But now I give credit to the city. They recognize the percentage they were allowing us for staffing and operations was not enough. But now this second turn of funding, they are considering that so we are in much better shape,” he said.
Grants are approved on a first come, first serve basis. Santana says the process can be lengthy, so applicants should look closely at the criteria for qualifications including proof of residence, proof that income has decreased due to COVID-19, proof of overdue payments and meeting income requirements.
“The person may think they’re qualified, but sometimes it's a very small detail. We need to be careful, because at the end of the day, all this funding will be audited so we take our time to go through the process,” he said.
With the increased funding in place, Santana said his organization will be able to get hundreds more grants approved. For more information about the program, go to: http://www.wfresnofrc.org/housing-retention-program