How to get help with rent, mortgage and utilities

CLINTON, South Carolina (WSPA) – With everything from food to gasoline on the rise, it has become harder for many people to pay their bills. Many don’t realize that the financial aid programs that began during the pandemic are still going strong. They offer help with everything from rent and mortgage payments to utilities and even property taxes.

When a mother Clinton came to 7NEWS asking for help, we wanted to share what we learned about who qualifies and how long these hundreds of millions of dollars in aid are expected to last.

When Brittany Green Vance became a mother, she swore she would protect her children from the worry of unpaid utility bills.

“I grew up with my lights off sometimes and never wanted my kids to go through that,” Green Vance said.

So when the lights went out two weeks ago at her rental home in Clinton, the mother of four tried to explain to the utility company that there had been a mistake.

“People came back. I think they’ll turn my lights back on, [but] they cut off my water. I was like, ‘Okay, I don’t have any lights. I have no water. How will I feed my children? How will my daughters bathe and get ready for school? How are we going to survive all night because it’s hot? said Green Vance.

She immediately called the South Carolina Housing Authority because she had applied a month prior to a program that provides utilities and rental assistance called SC Stay Plus.

Chris Winston of SC Housing said the $430 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds are for people who have had a negative financial impact from the pandemic.

To qualify, you must also have an annual salary that does not exceed 80% of your county’s average median income (AMI). You can view your AMI here. This chart shows more specific numbers for South Carolinians based on your household size.

“In Cherokee County or Union County, it will look something like your household income in the $40,000 to $50,000 range, and again, that changes by county and the size of the household. The larger the household, sort of the more populous county you are in, the higher the income limit will be for this program,” Winston said.

While SC Stay Plus serves 39 counties, the others, like Spartanburg, Anderson, and Greenville, have their own COVID-19 emergency rental assistance.

Clicking on your county in this interactive SC Housing map shows you which programs are available to you.

And it’s not just tenants. A new South Carolina “homeowner rescue program” just started this spring is helping struggling homeowners pay mortgages, property taxes and utilities.

And the median income for this program is higher, 150% of the county average based on household size. So, for a family of three in Greenville, this online eligibility calculator says the threshold is $115,000.

Back at Clinton, Green Vance said she knew she qualified and was told the check was on its way to Clinton Utilities. But as the day went on, she called 7NEWS for help.

We contacted Clinton and SC Stay Plus. Later in the afternoon, his water and electricity were back. And with temperatures in the 80s, she was grateful.

“I would like to thank SC Stay Plus as well as News Channel 7 because if it wasn’t for you both I don’t know where I would be,” Green Vance said.

“We were happy to make the calls and make sure everyone was aware of the situation and knew it had been approved and things were being resolved. We’re glad she was able to stay safe at home,” Winston said.

About half of the SC Stay Plus program for tenants has already been used. But the Housing Authority has said there should be enough funding to last until 2023. As for the homeowner rescue package, it has at least $145 million available.

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