SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Emergency rental assistance will be available in Chatham County to help renters facing eviction by the end of March.
For many renters, the pandemic created a new crisis, putting them behind on payments.
“I lost my job due to COVID, so I came here looking for a little bit of assistance on my rent,” said Israel Lattimore outside the office of the Economic Opportunity Authority (EOA) in Savannah after applying for assistance on Monday.
Lattimore says he’s about four months behind in his rent, and his landlord has actually tried to help, including telling him that there is now rental assistance available.
“They say they will get back to me and tell me if I qualify,” said Lattimore. “I really hope I do qualify.”
EOA director Terry Tolbert says his agency is one of two that is taking applications for rental assistance.
He says Chatham County is ultimately slated to get up to $9 million. About $500,000 is available now, and Tolbert says the EOA has probably received at least 600 phone calls thus far.
“This is only for renters,” said Tolbert. “We can help with rent, we can help with utilities and water.”
Because of COVID, people are asked to leave documents — including personal information, income documents and their lease — in a drop-off box outside the office.
Maykala Martin and Tamoni Stringer are students at Savannah State University who have been interning at EOA. They have been in charge of answering phone calls and setting up interviews.
Both are in social work, and finding their internships are putting their degrees into action.
“People who are calling saying basically, you know,
Martin recalled one of her phone conversations: “‘I have an eviction notice could you please help me with my housing? I’m two months behind, I don’t want to be homeless, I’m scared, I have kids.'”
“When people tell me that they need help, it just makes me want to do more,” said Stringer, “and do all I can to make sure people get the assistance they deserve because everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A national moratorium on evictions is set to end March 31. Tolbert says people may be getting eviction notices now, and says “that takes priority.”
He urges people to call and provide information on whether they have already received an eviction notice. If they have, they may be able to get help sooner.
United Way of the Coastal Empire is also taking applications. Call 211 or 912-438-8077.
Tolbert says there are income guidelines but they vary from municipality to municipality (half of median income):
- Savannah: $21,653
- Garden City: $23,386
- Thunderbolt: $27,282
- Unincorporated Chatham County: $28,421
- Bloomingdale: $29,404
- Port Wentworth: $39,663
- Tybee: $39,710
- Pooler: $39,713