Delawareans in need of help with rent or mortgage assistance because of COVID-19 can apply for grants of up to $5,000 through two housing programs that are being funding with $40 million from state and New Castle County shares of federal dollars.
Delaware Gov. John Carney on Monday said the state will reopen the Delaware Housing Assistance Program and Delaware Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program to help people whose income was slashed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Both are operated by the Delaware State Housing Authority, and can be applied for online at destatehousing.com/covid19.
Anas Ben Addi, director of the Delaware State Housing Authority, said checks are sent to landlords or mortgage service companies. They do not come to the people occupying the dwellings.
“I really don’t think it’s overstating it to say this effort will save lives,” said State Sen. Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, D-Wilmington, during a Monday press conference. A long-time housing and education advocate, Lockman also is chair of the New Castle County task force considering how to use the county’s share of the federal CARES money, and she was a member of the Delaware Pandemic Resurgence Committee. That group recommended helping people with rent and mortgage payments.
Helping families stay in their homes means children eat regularly and can stay in school, Lockman said.
“The Delaware Office of Women’s Advancement has also highlighted that women in general have been so strongly impacted by COVID,” Lockman said during a Facebook Live annoucement about the program. She said 82 percent of black mothers, 58 percent of white ones and 56 percent of Hispanic mothers are the main breadwinners in their homes. Many are in front-line jobs, Lockman said.
The Delaware Housing Assistance Program, also called DEHAP, was started at the beginning of the pandemic as the enormity of the economic blows became apparent. Delaware became the first state to offer housing assistance because of COVID-19.
The state, all three counties and nine nonprofits donated $5.7 million to the cause in three days. The program instantly had 6,000 people apply, said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, and had to “pause” in April because the money ran out.
Those applying for rent assistance must live in Delaware and have a maximum post-pandemic household income at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income of the county in which they live. Those can be found on the housing authority’s website.
For rental help, applications must be submitted by landlords or property owners on behalf of tenants through a new application portal on the housing authority’s site. Ben Addi said. The site includes a step-by-step tutorial video and list of frequently asked questions.
Carney has ordered that all evictions be stayed until the Justice of the Peace Courts can determine whether the parties could benefit from mediation or a new dispute resolution program. Lockman said that order had kept roofs over people’s heads.
“Many Delaware families are one missed rent payment away from facing an eviction filed against them that could result in homelessness,” said Housing Alliance Delaware Executive Director Rachel Stucker in a release sent out after the press conference. “If we can keep Delaware families in their homes, we can help them avoid the trauma of homelessness and the significant risks associated with not having a safe home during a public health emergency.”
The Delaware Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program, called DEMAP, actually was first instituted in 2007 when the mortgage banking crisis threatened homes, Carney said. It is being revived to help with COVID.
The mortgage program now is designed to help homeowners at risk of losing their homes because of a pandemic-related job loss, reduced work hours or unpaid leave. To be eligible, the home must be the full-time residence and it must be in Delaware.
Homeowners must have a maximum post-pandemic household income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income for their county. In Kent and Sussex Counties, the maximum income limit is $65,520 and in New Castle County, the maximum is $77,280. the press release said.
Homeowners seeking help will be referred to housing counselors to start the process, Ben Addi said.
“No one should lose their home, no one should be thrown out on the street due to the inability to pay their rent or mortgage due to a public health emergency,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer during the press conference.
State Rep. Kendra Johnson, D-Bear, who is chair of the House Housing and Community Affair Committee, called the announcement amazing.
“Delaware families are going to be able to breathe just a little bit better because you put your money where your mouth is, and you saw a need to support families,” Johnson said.
She said her constituents are more than concerned about the continuing effects of the pandemic.
“They’re scared,” she said. “They’re scared when they don’t know how they are going to pay their rent, how they’re going to pay their mortgage, how they’re going to eat.”