If you're worried about keeping a roof over your head, help is available.
Over a quarter of Colorado's workforce is employed in the leisure, hospitality, and retail industries, which explains why the state's economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Unemployment in Colorado hit a record high of 11.3% in April, and reached over 20% in rural areas that rely on tourism. If you are one of the many Coloradans hit by the crisis, financial assistance is available.
Colorado Emergency Housing Assistance Program
Colorado's governor announced a $20 million emergency fund for those who have been affected by COVID-19. To apply for emergency rental or mortgage assistance, you need to fulfill various requirements, including:
- Have a household income no greater than 80% of the area median income. For example, the maximum monthly income for a qualifying household of four in Jefferson County is $6,541.67.
- Provide evidence of financial hardship, and show that you are unable to pay your rent or mortgage because of COVID-19.
- Not have received rental or mortgage assistance from other sources.
- Provide evidence of rent or mortgage payment(s) that are due.
The Emergency Housing Assistance Program is not the only source of funds in Colorado. If you own a primary residence in the city of Denver, you may also be eligible for assistance from the Colorado Housing Assistance Corporation. Plus, the Property Owner Preservation program is open to landlords who want to seek rental assistance on behalf of their tenants.
It's worth understanding what housing assistance is available at a national level as well. If your home or your landlord's home was bought with a federally-backed mortgage (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, USDA, VA or FHA), your lender cannot foreclose on your mortgage and you cannot be evicted until at least Aug. 31, 2020. As a homeowner, you can ask for 180 days of forbearance on your mortgage, which can then be extended for another 180 days.
At a local level, be aware that Colorado's eviction moratorium finished on June 13, so if you are unable to pay your rent or mortgage and are not protected by the federal provisions, you could be at risk. It is worth knowing that landlords in Colorado currently need to give tenants 30 days notice instead of the usual 10.
Food, unemployment, and utilities assistance in Colorado
- If you are unemployed, find out how to file for unemployment in Colorado. The additional $600 in federal unemployment benefits runs out on July 25. However, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment says that if you've exhausted your regular benefits, you may be entitled to an additional 13 weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
- Volunteers of America Colorado provides food and housing support for vulnerable and low-income groups, from senior citizens to people with disabilities.
- The governor has suspended disconnections and the accrual of late payment fees for all public utility companies until August 11. You can also apply for up to $1,500 in energy bill payment assistance from Energy Outreach Colorado.
- Colorado's SNAP program gives eligible households funds via an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that can be used to buy groceries. You can apply by phone, online, or by downloading the MyCOBenefits app. You can apply for other assistance, such as Colorado Works, at the same time. You can also make use of the Double Up Food Bucks program to get double the value of your SNAP benefits at participating stores.
- If your child was receiving school meals, you may be able to claim additional benefits in the form of Pandemic EBT. The application page will open in late July, and you can back-claim the payments as soon as it's up and running.
- There's a wide network of food banks in Colorado, including the Food Bank of the Rockies, who say they've distributed more food than ever in the past three months.
We still don't know if there will be a second stimulus check, but we can be pretty certain that all of these funds and assistance programs will be in high demand. Put simply, the sooner you apply for financial assistance, the better.
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