As the cost of everyday items continues to rise, the financial impact of the pandemic still resonates for families struggling to pay rent and keep the lights on. Federal grants have been awarded to numerous counties and city councils across the country to give cash-strapped households some breathing room.
Recently, Trident United Way (TUW), an organization that helps people in the border triangle find help, released information about the cost of housing and how it contributes to the increase in the number of homeless people. The organization called the pandemic the biggest crisis it has seen to date regarding financial tensions and its impact on everyday life.
To make matters worse, the agency adds that the cost of housing, (TUW) reports that by 2021, house prices in the area will have increased by 24% and apartment rents have risen by 21%.
Help is still widely needed. It’s been a year since the City of Summerville began offering funds to its residents after receiving grants from the United States Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Those who qualify are getting much-needed help from the financial impact of COVID. Those in charge of cashing out the money will cut the checks in no time.
“We are already several months behind and they just couldn’t get up. They were catching up and could never keep up with their payments and this just kind of helps with that and keeps them up to date,” said PJ Herbert, the grant writer for the city of Summerville.
After launching on July 1, 2021, the city has spent nearly $350,000 with just under $90,000 left. The funds are for Summerville residents only.
Obviously, it is not easy to ensure that people qualify and get the help they need in such a short time. That’s where the local non-profit Origin SC comes in. They are contracted to make sure the money gets to the right people.
“They kind of research the process and then we go through the process to make sure the claims are given to the landlords and they get the utilities paid,” Harbert said.
As one of the oldest nonprofits in the area, Origin SC has overcome a number of hardships over the years. The organization’s website states that it has been around for more than 130 years. The organization offers help with everything from anger management classes to bankruptcy counseling.
“We’ve been very busy with mortgage, rent or utilities across the border triangle,” said Kacie Marcus, housing stability case manager at Origin SC. “The last couple of years since COVID hit and you know, as far as funding goes, we had more funding available, but of course there’s an increase in people who need that funding,” she said.
Figures from Origin SC show that in 2021 they helped 577 households with mortgage, rent or utilities in the three-country point. The funds amount to approximately $1.7 million in financial aid.
So far this year, Marcus said, they have helped 183 households with aid in the three-country point totaling nearly $500,000.
Still two and a half years later, the lingering effects of the pandemic continue to grip local households. While nonprofits like Origin SC are stable in operation, offering money and peace of mind, they have yet to find a breathing space of their own.
“It may have gotten a little better, but we’re definitely still seeing effects from it,” Marcus said. “Most of the people we help today are behind on their rent or utilities that are somehow related to COVID.”