After months of waiting, South Carolinians who are behind on rent will soon have access to more than $271 million in federal aid thanks to a bill passed by the SC House of Representatives on Wednesday.
H. 3770 allows the state to distribute rent assistance from a COVID-19 stimulus package Congress passed in December. This is separate from the funds South Carolina received through last month’s American Rescue Plan.
“You’ve got a lot of folks who have struggled,” said state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, one of the sponsors of the bill. “Now we can get this money out there and people can start applying.”
Eligible households may receive up to 12 months worth of back rent or utility payments. Some applicants may be considered for up to three months of additional assistance to cover future payments.
To qualify, renters must:
Have experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19
Demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability
Make less than 80% of the area median income
This excludes renters from the following seven counties, which were granted federal approval to set up their own rent assistance programs. Those residents should apply directly through the county.
Anderson received $6,125,838.80
Berkeley received $6,892,453.30
Charleston received $12,441,902.30
Greenville received $15,833,163.40
Horry received $10,708,257.10
Richland received $12,573,547.40
Spartanburg received $9,671,063.90
The state’s housing finance and development authority will partner with the consulting firm Guidehouse to distribute the remaining $271,774,744.30.
“SC Housing looks forward to administering the program and helping thousands of South Carolina residents stay in their homes safely,” said Chris Eversman, the authority’s media and marketing engagement manager. “This also will benefit landlords who have been forced to go without their income.”
Gov. Henry McMaster still has to sign the bill into law before SC Housing can take further action. But once that happens, Eversman said the application portal could be open in a matter of weeks.