ARIZONA NEWS

Maricopa County has $29M in aid available for struggling renters

Aug 20, 2020, 4:25 AM | Updated: Aug 21, 2020, 10:45 am
(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County has given out $993,000 in rental assistance to residents enduring financial struggles due to the coronavirus pandemic — a small fraction of funds still available from the federal coronavirus relief bill.

The county still has $29 million left from the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and is welcoming applications through December or until the money is gone.

The aid doled out has helped 323 families in Maricopa County thus far.

Bruce Liggett, the county’s human services department director, read a letter during a news conference from a family of four where the father was laid off and the mother had to stop working.

“We were down to one income, and then we had to stay home with self-quarantine,” Liggett read aloud.

“It was beyond stressful. But the help I got, getting us back on track, will get us back on our feet again.”

Liggett also read aloud the story of another woman who got help after losing her income when her diner closed:

“It said, ‘I had never asked for help before. I was emotionally drained and worried. Then I found out that I was COVID positive. I wondered what would happen to me, but still, rent had to be paid.'”

She also wrote that she wants to pay back the assistance.

Liggett says renters get $1,500 a month for three months, and it could be retroactive to March when the Coronavirus shutdown began.

But the program could be expanded.

“If we find out there are some barriers that can be changed, we’ll eliminate those,” Liggett said. “We’ll make adjustments as needed.”

Liggett said his office has received nearly 2,388 requests for help. About 30% of them have been declined.

“The primary reason is that they have been asking for assistance with mortgages, and this program is for rent assistance,” Liggett said.

He added that income of some applicants have been too high, or they’ve been unable to prove economic hardship due to the coronavirus.

A third of applications have also been incomplete. Liggett encouraged their filers to complete them.

The state of Arizona also has a landlord assistance fund worth $5 million. It’s for landlords whose renters won’t apply for help.

However, landlords cannot double dip. If they get rent money from the county and state programs for the same rental unit, then landlords must refund the state.

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Maricopa County has $29M in aid available for struggling renters