By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Staff
Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) who meet the income guidelines will be eligible for rental assistance thanks to a grant the Tribe recently recently from the U.S. Department of the Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) Division of Housing received $4,450,158.50 in funding for this program.
“The program is intended to serve low-income families that are 80 percent of the median income in whichever county they live in,” said Edwin Taylor, EBCI Secretary of Housing. “It’s based on the number of individuals in the household. We’re providing emergency rental services to the Reservation and Jackson, Swain, Haywood, Graham, Clay and Cherokee counties for any (EBCI) enrolled member.”
According to information from the Dept. of the Treasury, a household qualifies if they meet the following guidelines, “(i.) one or more individuals within the household has qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 outbreak; one or more individuals within the household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and the household has a household income at or below 80 percent of area median income.”
A total of $25 billion was allocated for the ERAP. “The Emergency Rental Assistance Program will help to keep American families in their homes during this challenging time,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement in early January when the program was launched. “Treasury is implementing this program with unparalleled speed so our state, local, and tribal partners across the country can provide assistance to families in need.”
Applications for EBCI tribal members will be taken at the Division of Housing from April 1-16. “The goal is for the Emergency Rental Assistance funds to start rolling out on May 1,” said Taylor. “We can provide assistance for 12 months and then we can do an additional three months afterwards depending on circumstances. The program allows us to cover any rental and/or utility arrears, get them current, and then whatever months we’re covering will go toward the allowable months.”
Taylor noted that the time period will open again for additional applications once the initial round of assistance is processed. “We found out about the grant in February, got our application in, and got almost $4.6 million for emergency rental assistance. It will provide needed assistance to some of our most at-risk enrolled members. Also, if the household has a non-Indian head of household but EBCI children living in the household, then we can also provide rental assistance.”
Applications will be available online soon for EBCI tribal members at: COVID-19 – Eastern Band of Cherokee (ebci.com)