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Honolulu’s rent and utility relief program reopens to 10K applicants on Monday

  • STAR-ADVERTISER

    STAR-ADVERTISER

The City and County of Honolulu will reopen the Rental and Utility Relief Program for another 10,000 applicants Monday evening.

The highly sought-after program provides help with rent or utility payments for those suffering from hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, using federal relief funds.

During its initial launch in early April, applications were closed after the maximum of 8,000 applicants was reached in just four hours. During the second round, the maximum of 4,000 applicants was reached in just about 20 minutes.

The portal at oneoahu.org/renthelp reopens for the next round at 6 p.m. Monday.

“The city and our community partners urge any eligible Oahu households that have not applied already to strongly consider applying for help paying their rent and bills for electricity, water and sewer, and gas,” said Executive Director of the Office of Economic Revitalization Amy Asselbaye in a news release. “We thank everyone for their patience as we work with our community partners in verifying each household’s income, lease, and eligibility documents. By working together, we will keep thousands of our neighbors in their homes.”

The city advises getting the following ready to apply:

>> Gather all necessary documents. A complete list is available in an FAQ at oneoahu.org/renthelp.

>> Make sure only one person per household applies. Multiple applications from the same household will be disallowed and delay processing applications for other households in need.

>> Those who have already applied in the first two rounds should not apply again.

>> Do not apply for mortgage help. The program cannot pay for delinquent mortgages due to federal guidelines.

For households that qualify, the program will pay up to $2,500 a month for unpaid rent and electric, sewer and water, or gas bills; up to $2,000 a month for current or future rent payments; and up to $500 a month for current or future electric, water and sewer, and gas bills.

The payments can be for bills dating back to March 13, 2020, as well current bills, or three months of future bills. Total payments can be for as many as 12 months.

Payments are made directly to a landlord or utility.

The city reminds applicants that:

>> Being accepted into the program does not mean immediate payment to a landlord or utility. The city’s community partners must verify if an applicant qualifies, including confirming income limits and validating documents.

>> Each landlord will have to submit a signed W-9 tax document. Landlords who delay submitting a W-9 will delay the payment process.

>> Due to federal guidelines, applicants earning 50% of Oahu’s annual median income or lower will be prioritized. For a household of four, that is $62,950 a year or less. To qualify, a household must also demonstrate financial harm from the pandemic and have at least one member at risk of losing housing.

>> A household can also qualify if at least one member has been unemployed for 90 days at the time of application.

City officials said in the program’s first eight weeks this year, nearly 2,000 households have received more than $15.3 million in rent and utility payments.

In the first 12 weeks of 2020, the program provided $2.1 million in help.

To help answer questions about the application process, the city will conduct a webinar from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the One Oahu Facebook page at facebook.com/oneoahu.

No Facebook account is needed to watch, and the webinar will be recorded and posted online afterward.

Going forward, the portal will open the first working Monday of each month, as long as the program has funding. The next round of applications following this Monday’s will reopen on July 12.

People with questions should visit oneoahu.org/renthelp and review the Frequently Asked Questions. If questions remain, they can call the city’s call center from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily at 768-CITY (2489).

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