Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Summit agency to aid 'new poor' with housing bills

A Summit County agency wants to help those struggling to pay their housing bills.

Qualified applicants can receive as much as $700 for one month's rent or up to $1,000 for one month's mortgage payment (principal and interest only).

Unlike the agency's earlier programs, only those who have lost jobs, had their work hours cut or are homeless are eligible for assistance.

''This is to focus on reaching the new poor under the current economic crisis,'' said Charlotte Robinson, a program director for Akron Summit Community Action Inc.

''We're trying to reach those people who need assistance and may not know it's available,'' said Patty Spencer, emergency services administrator for the agency.

Checks are made directly to the landlord or mortgage holder, who must agree to allow the family to stay in the home an additional 30 days.

Previously, the rent/mortgage assistance money was not aimed specifically at laid-off workers or those getting smaller paychecks. The money was given to those with all kinds of economic hardships, including large medical bills.

The agency has about $65,000 that must be given out before Dec. 31, Robinson said.

The money is available to county residents who are at or below 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

''A family of four could make $44,000 [in annual household income] and still qualify,'' Spencer said.

Applicants must have lost their job or had their hours cut by at least 20 percent within the previous six months.

''We determined the 20 percent of hours reduced equaled one day a week, which is not unusual,'' Spencer said.

The agency has provided rent/mortgage assistance since the early 1980s with federal funding made available through the United Way.

How to apply

To apply for rent/mortgage assistance, call Akron Summit Community Action Inc. at 330-253-8806.

Applicants will be referred to one of three Community Action sites for a screening conducted over the phone.

Those who appear to meet the program's requirements will be given an appointment at one of three sites:

-- 670 W. Exchange St., Akron.

-- 1367 Doty Drive, Akron.

-- 196 S. Van Buren Ave., Barberton.

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