Fort Collins’ need for emergency rent assistance is expected to be higher in May than it was in April, even as some businesses begin slowly reopening and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ temporary eviction moratorium takes effect.
Polis issued an executive order late Thursday evening prohibiting evictions and foreclosures for nonpayment through at least May 30. Tenants who present an imminent and serious threat to another individual or cause serious damage to the property can still be evicted.
Polis’ order also instructs property managers to work with tenants to create payment plans. It instructs state agencies to create model repayment plans to share with property managers.
Meanwhile, some Fort Collins residents are starting to return to work as Colorado shifts from the stay-at-home order to the “safer-at-home” phase, which encourages residents to stay home as much as possible but doesn’t mandate it. Many businesses are allowed to reopen with limited capacity and strict social distancing procedures this week.
But scores of Fort Collins renters will remain stretched thin this month, Neighbor to Neighbor executive director Kelly Evans said. Neighbor to Neighbor is a local nonprofit that provides emergency rent assistance to residents in the Fort Collins and Loveland area. When April rent was due, people who lost work due to the coronavirus outbreak likely had some earnings or savings on hand to pay bills, Evans said.
By now, much or all of those funds have probably dried up, and some people have been out of work or on reduced hours for an entire month, she said. A survey of 155 Fort Collins businesses released in April found that 40% had reduced employment or employee hours, city staff told Fort Collins City Council on Tuesday.
“I think the hesitancy to be in crowded areas will last,” Evans said. “So for some industries, they may be partially open, but I’m not sure that will translate to their employees having their needs met, as far as income goes.”
Fort Collins renters have previously told the Coloradoan they’re reluctant to get too behind on rent because of the possible snowball effect. They fear property managers could begin eviction procedures when the moratorium is over.
Neighbor to Neighbor has seen a huge influx of rent assistance requests and community donations since the coronavirus outbreak began, Evans said. Over 400 households had requested rent assistance by April 24, and Evans estimated in late April that the nonprofit would distribute about $140,700 in rent assistance to 213 households by the end of the month.
Before coronavirus, Neighbor to Neighbor distributed a monthly average of $19,000 in rent assistance to 56 Larimer County households.
Evans predicts May need will be even higher: Neighbor to Neighbor will dole out an estimated $180,000 to 272 Larimer County households, she said.
Evans attributes the increased assistance in part to a significant increase in donations and grants. She said April 24 that Neighbor to Neighbor had received about $100,000 in private donations. The nonprofit raised over $10,000 in donations during a virtual rent party on Wednesday, which shifted the fundraising platform from its usually in-person format to an online concert.
“I think our neighbors understand the need is so widespread right now,” Evans said. “Folks want to be part of the solution, and helping to prevent an eviction is such a tangible way to help.”
Neighbor to Neighbor also received a $25,000 donation from Broadcom, facilitated by the city of Fort Collins, on Friday. And they may get some additional funding from the city, which plans to prioritize a portion of federal money for emergency rent assistance.
The city is expected to receive about $649,000 in Community Development Block Grants from the federal government. Staff and council plan to prioritize that funding for city-incurred sheltering and coronavirus response costs, other emergency shelter operation costs and emergency assistance for rent, food and utilities.
Neighbor to Neighbor offers emergency rent assistance to Larimer County households earning less than 80% of the area median income, or $47,700 for an individual or $68,100 for a family of four. The maximum amounts are $750 for people on the lower end of the income spectrum and $500 for people on the higher end.
The amount of financial assistance depends on the household’s need and is paid directly to the renter’s landlord.
Jacy Marmaduke covers government accountability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke. Support stories like this one by purchasing a digital subscription to the Coloradoan.
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