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COVID-19 crisis has created high demand for rental assistance

Posted at 9:35 PM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 21:40:21-04

INDIANAPOLIS — COVID-19 is costing some people their lives and others can get really sick. But the virus doesn't just impact physical health.

Many people have lost their job and their income because of the pandemic.

The city of Indianapolis can help with paying rent. The city-county council used $15 million it received from the CARES Act COVID Relief Fund, plus money donated by the Lilly Endowment, to help thousands of Marion County residents with rent.

Over the course of just three days, Indianapolis's rental assistance program received over 10,000 applications for help.

"It's not surprising," Jeff Bennett, Indy's deputy mayor of community development, said. "It was Monday 6,000 of the 10,000 applications came in the first day."

Because of the high volume, the IndyRent Assistance Portal has moved to collecting now email addresses to be placed on a waiting list until they can fulfill all the applications already submitted.

The deputy mayor said the average household has been asking for between $1,000 and $1,500.

"There are certainly families across our city facing crisis and some who are now on a waiting list for this program so we know that even despite our best efforts to size a program that was meaningful, it's not enough to meet the need across the community," Bennett said.

"We have to just continue to be hopeful and encourage people to weather the storm," Leigh Evans, director of community development at Eastern Star Church, said.

Eastern Star Church is one of the city's partners helping with outreach. They connected two dozen families with the city's rental assistance but want people to know they too are there and can help with rent and other necessities even if the city does eventually run out of funds.

"COVID has definitely aggravated the disparities that existed and so we wanted to make sure that individuals were able to get that support that they needed to get back on their feet," Evans said.

The city is still accepting email addresses to be added on the wait list. Officials said they're also thinking of ways to do a second round with existing funds that they have access to.