The City of Columbia Housing Programs Division is offering funds to nonprofits in order to help residents make housing and living payments during COVID-19. With nearly $740,000 awarded to Columbia through the CARES Act, the city went to residents in a survey to help determine the priorities for the Community Development Block Grant funding. Randy Cole, the manager of the Columbia Housing Programs Division, said the survey’s top three responses included rent payments, food security and homelessness.
“Whenever you stabilize a household, you’re also going to create space for them to go spend the money in the economy,” he said. “The more stable household you have, the more money circulates in our economy, and that’s better for everybody.”
The city is releasing the funds in several increments, and this is the third round. Previous rounds of funding went to programs such as the Voluntary Action Center and Columbia Housing Authority. Cole said he the incremental funding will satisfy both the long-term and immediate community needs. This round of funding should be available for the public in March or April, which Cole said was an “aggressive timeline, but it does take some time to make sure we follow all of our procedures and regulations.” For example, the council must vote on recipients in January, execute a formal agreement in February and start funding allocation shortly after.
Interested applicants can attend an informational Zoom meeting on Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. According to the city of Columbia’s website, funds must go toward CDBG-eligible services that help communities respond to the pandemic. Funding priorities include vocational training, utility and mortgage assistance, homelessness and education and childcare access. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 30 to 40 million Americans could face eviction by the end of 2020 because they are having trouble making their rent payments.
“If their rent’s paid and their utilities are on, they’re going to have extra resources to go get takeout food or go to Walmart and get that thing they need,” Cole said.