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Hoosiers plead for help paying their rent and mortgages

The pandemic has created hardship for many
Posted at 6:51 PM, Jan 26, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS — Keeping jobs and enough income to pay rent and mortgages has been a struggle for many Hoosiers. About a quarter million Indiana residents are behind on payments and at risk of eviction because of the pandemic.

“I lost both my jobs actually just because crowds couldn’t gather and there are no fans,” said Derrick Smith Jr, who works in the sports industry. He’s worked for the Pacers, Colts, and more, both as a concessionaire and for the media side.

“It’s just been a hard transition to find work in the field because I hear a lot of people say well if you don’t like those options, you shouldn’t have chosen those jobs. But I chose this job because I love what I do,” said Smith. “I didn’t think the whole world would literally stop.”

He applied and received rental assistance through the city’s Indy Rent Program. That helped, but didn’t last long, and he was later hit with an eviction notice. So he called Indiana 211 for help.

“They directed me to a list and I just started making my calls and kind of crossing my fingers hoping I could find someone to just help me out because I’ve honestly never been in the situation,” he said. “Usually, I do have the wherewithal to keep a job and I have most of my bills paid. But like I said, when your whole industry literally goes away.”

The Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic was one resource that has helped keep him in his home. They informed him of the federal moratorium on evictions in place, that was also recently extended by President Biden through the end of March.

“So really that’s the only reason why I even have a roof over my head now is that order. I honestly don’t know where I’d be,” he said. Trying to keep the lights on, Smith said, “jobs aren’t calling fast enough even temp jobs. And I’ve exhausted the options that they said to exhaust.”

Indiana is set to receive $448 million for rent and utility assistance in the latest Congressional COVID-19 package. Smith is hopeful that money will soon get in hands of people who really need it.

“People are going through stuff they’ve probably never gone through before. People are having to ask for help and ask for food and child care. I’ve got three kids myself,” he said. “I guarantee you, no lawmaker is dealing with what I’m dealing with. I guarantee you no lawmakers having to call food kitchens to figure out when they’re giving food away.”

The City of Indianapolis has received nearly $29 million in federal funds for rental assistance and anticipates bringing a fiscal ordinance before the City-County Council for approval at next Monday’s meeting, which would allow them to deploy those dollars.

“We are heartened by the expansion of federal rental assistance dollars, to better meet a need that we know has not gone away,” said city spokesperson Mark Bode. “We anticipate adapting the existing framework developed by the city to administer additional funds according to federal guidelines.”