Help with past due rent, utility bills and mortgage payments available for eligible Iowans

IFA Director Debi Durham speaks at Gov. Reynolds’ March 24, 2021 press conference.

Starting on Monday, Iowans behind on their rent, utility bills or mortgage payments due to COVID-19 will be able to receive assistance paying what they owe. At 2 p.m. on March 29, the online application process for both the Iowa Rent and Utility Assistance Program and the COVID-19 Iowa Foreclosure Prevention Program will begin.

“I’m told exactly two o’clock,” Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA), said during Gov. Kim Reynolds news conference on Wednesday. “Not sure why two, but it’s at two o’clock.”

The rent and utility program can “provide eligible COVID-19-impacted renters with help with rent and utility bills for up to a combined total of 12 months,” Durham explained.

“The program is funded through a $195 million allocation made to IFA through the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program administered by the Department of Treasury,” she said. “Rent assistance through the program can include past-due payments and up to three months of future assistance requested at a time. The utility assistance can include past-due payments only.”

If a person’s application is approved, payments will be made directly to the landlord or utility provider. Durham advised renters to let their landlords know if they intend to apply for the assistance, because the landlord must complete part of the application.

The assistance is only available to pay for past due amounts that will be billed after March 13, 2020.

According to the IFA site for the program, in order to qualify for assistance you must meet the following criteria.

• Renter households with incomes of no more than 80% of Area Median Income.

• One or more individuals in the household has qualified for unemployment benefits.
OR has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the coronavirus outbreak.

• The household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability which may include a past due utility or rent notice or eviction notice.

The IFA uses counties as the areas for calculating income levels. The agency publishes a guide to what constitutes 80 percent of a county’s average income, according to the number of persons in a household.

For Johnson County:

1 person: $54,950

2 people: $62,800

3 people: $70,650

4 people: $78,500

5 people: $84,800

6 people: $91,100

7 people: $97,350

8 people: $103,650

For Linn County:

1 person: $47,750

2 people: $54,500

3 people: $61,350

4 people: $68,150

5 people: $73,650

6 people: $79,100

7 people: $84,550

8 people: $90,000

IFA has an online list of the types of documents, including personal identification and proof of income loss, needed to apply.

The same income thresholds apply to the foreclosure prevention program. It has been set up as a stopgap measure until a federal homeowners assistance program approved as part of the recent American Rescue Plan Act can take effect.

According to the IFA site, eligible applicants can receive “mortgage assistance for up to four months (this can include up to two months in arrears) beginning with April 1, 2020 mortgage payment, ($3,600 maximum).”

In addition to meeting the income threshold, the applicant must be a current homeowner who is “[a]t risk of foreclosure due to a documented COVID-19-related loss of income on or after March 13, 2020.”

Applicants will have to provide documentation of their loss of income during the pandemic and their latest mortgage statement.

According to Durham, the rent and utility program is expected to remain open until Sept. 30. The foreclosure prevention program “will be open until the funds are exhausted, or quite frankly, until the new Federal Homes Ownership Assistance Program becomes available,” she said.

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