Rental assistance program fulfills $5 million in requests

Richland County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) reached a milestone this week, approving more than $5 million in assistance requests.

The County still has funding available through ERAP, which can aid renters who have been impacted by COVID-19 and need help paying rent and utility bills. Funds do not have to be repaid.

“With each passing week, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for families to meet their basic needs,” said Councilwoman Gretchen Barron, who chairs Council’s Coronavirus Ad Hoc Committee. “ERAP staff have worked hard to address the needs of those who have been negatively impacted by COVID, whether it was due to job or income loss.”

ERAP can provide up to 12 months of rental and utility assistance, plus an additional three months if funds are available and the County determines the extra months are needed to ensure housing stability. The County encourages eligible renters to apply, as well as owners and landlords on behalf of renters.

The U.S. Treasury awarded Richland County $12.5 million to help qualifying renters, and the County has approved more than 850 applications for funding so far. County staff approve more than 20 applications per business day.

“It is apparent by the number of applicants who have been awarded funds that this assistance is racing to aid the needs of families in Richland County,” Barron said.
To learn more and apply, visit www.richlandcountysc.gov/ERA to find updated rules and frequently asked questions about ERAP, including income requirements and qualifications for renters.

When applying, residents should submit all of the required information and fill out the necessary forms accurately, as incomplete applications slow the approval process. Richland County will notify applicants if an application is incomplete; tenants have 21 days to respond, and landlords have 10 days to respond.

A language support tool for non-English-speakers is available in the application portal.

To apply for ERAP, residents can:

• Apply online
• Call the program’s toll-free number: 855-216-9198
• Submit an application in person.

Whether applying online, by phone or in person, all applicants should be prepared to provide the following information with documentation:
1. Name and contact information
2. Address – household applicants must reside in a rental property within Richland County
3. Status – renter or landlord?
4. Copy of an applicable lease agreement or self-attestation in the absence of a lease agreement
5. Household income – must be below 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI)
6. Rental/utility payment status
7. In arrears or prospective?
8. Impact of COVID-19
9. Is there economic hardship? How?
10. Is there a risk of homelessness or housing instability? How?

ERAP funding must be used to reduce past-due rental and utility balances before future rent payments can be made. Once past-due balances are settled, the County will consider future rent payments for up to three months at a time.

The application portal will close when funding is exhausted.

Need Help Applying? The County’s Department of Government and Community Services offers in-person assistance on a limited basis and by appointment only. Residents should review the ERAP information and must bring all required documentation to their appointment. Schedule an appointment by calling 803-576-1513. When leaving a message, please provide your name and phone number for a return call.

Richland Library is also offering assistance to residents who need help completing the application. Applicants can schedule an appointment with a member of the library’s Social Work team by calling 803-509-8371, texting 803-386-8506 or emailing [email protected]

Find more information at www.richlandcountysc.gov/ERA.