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'We're just trying to do everything we can': East Lansing adds utility assistance to relief funding

Posted at 6:02 PM, Apr 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 19:10:00-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The East Lansing City Council is getting another round of coronavirus funding and it will be used in part to give residents help with utility bills.

"We received word that we would be technically receiving round three, it is our second pot of additional money, but it's round three for the federal government," said East Lansing Community Development and Engagement Manager Amy Schlusler-Schmitt."We are really meant to spend these additional dollars specific to COVID either response or in preparation for all this COVID that is happening."

More than $218,000 will be allocated to the city's emergency rent and mortgage assistance program to help residents who are being affected financially by COVID-19.

"We're just trying to do everything we can," said East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens. "People are still struggling financially right now."

Schlusler-Schmitt said the council has been discussing this since March. After city staff reached out to utility providers in the area, they decided it would be a good idea to add that to the assistance program.

"We actually learned that there are hundreds of thousands of arrearages in the region," Schlusler-Schmitt said. "We felt that yes, this would be appropriate at this time since people have not been able to pay their bills in full."

East Lansing residents can apply for relief funding through the Capital Area Housing Partnership.

The total rent and mortgage assistance is capped at $7,000 per household over a six month period. This is a $2,000 increase from the previous rounds of funding.

Households can apply for a maximum of $3,000 in utility bill assistance fox six months.

When applications open in a few week, Schlusler-Schmitt said, each household applying for assistance has to prove they've had a change in income during the pandemic.

"Perhaps they have less hours than they did before, perhaps they've gone from a two person income to a one person income. All of those are eligible activities or situations where people could receive the funds."

The city's first round of funding began in July. Schlusler-Schmitt said they believe it was beneficial to those who used it.

"We have serviced over 35 households," she said. "I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but that's actually been over $88,000 in assistance."

Stephens said he hopes this funding will continue to help those in need within the city.

"This type of money is a good thing," Stephens said. "Especially giving it to local communities that can assess the needs of their community and then adapt and put that money to good use."

Now that the City Council has approved adding utilities to the program, it will go to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for final approval. Shlusler-Schmitt said she anticipates that will happen over the course of the next few weeks.

In the meantime, households in need are still able to apply for the $5,000 rent and mortgage program that does not include utilities.

Residents with questions can contact the CAHP office at (517) 332-4663 or for more information. Applicants will be served on a first-come, first serve basis.

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