SC takes steps to ease requirements for emergency federal rental and utility assistance

State News

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — The federal government sent South Carolina about $272 million for emergency rental assistance earlier this year.

As of Monday, less than 20% of that money has been sent to people behind on their payments since the program launched.

State officials leading the SC Stay Plus program and the effort to get this money out sat down with the Public Service Commission Monday morning to provide an update on the progress they’ve made.

They said since May 2021, they have received more than 30,000 applications and have approved about $34 million in assistance.

“There’s another $32 million in applications we have completed but after our review we have realized they haven’t provided the documents needed in order to make a determination on that application,” Vinod Ramachandran with Guidehouse told commissioners,

Ramachandran said the biggest challenges to getting the money out so far has been documentation, landlord participation and low application rates.

He told commissioners that, initially, 95% of applicants were missing proper documentation to have their applications processed.

He also said there were landlords who did not want to participate in the program.

“They had been unsatisfied with the tenant. They just wanted the tenant evicted so they didn’t want to participate in the program,” Ramachandran said.

To alleviate these issues SC Housing said they relaxed their documentation requirements. They can also send money straight to renters if the landlord does not give them a response.

“I do know the best is yet to come. We’re about to have a couple great months and we’re going to get to where we need to be,” said Chris Koon with the SC Emergency Rental Assistance Program. “A lot of people have been working hard to get us there.”

He detailed to commissioners how assistance will be made more easily available to utility customers behind on bills through direct payments. Koon also shared how pre-pay customers will be able to get assistance.

The SC Stay Plus program is available to South Carolinians in 39 counties.

Seven of the state’s counties (Anderson, Berkeley, Charleston, Greenville, Horry, Richland, and Spartanburg) received the money for their county directly from the federal government and have their own rental assistance programs set up.

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