Bay County program helps people catch up on rent, mortgage, and utility payments

Bay County has a million ways to help people having a hard time paying mortgages, rent, utilities, and property taxes as a result of COVID-19.

The county recently set aside $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help households facing hardships due to COVID-19.

In the first week, the Bay County Household Assistance Program awarded a total of $17,000 to 13 households, says Shawna S. Walraven, Bay County Finance Officer. More than 60 households are going through the process to qualify for the one-time grants of up to $3,000.

The Bay County Household Assistance program is open to people living inside Bay County, but outside the City of Bay City. Bay City offered a similar program in 2020.

The two programs are similar in many ways, including the goal of helping people facing financial difficulty in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Bay County’s Household Assistance Program is designed to help residents who have been impacted the most by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bay County Executive Jim Barcia says. “Payments will be made on behalf of struggling residents to assist with delinquent taxes, utilities, rent, and mortgages to allow people to stay in their homes.”

Applicants must have a COVID hardship since March 3, 2021. Applicants also must meet income guidelines and live in Bay County. City of Bay City residents are not eligible. The full requirements are detailed online.

The income guidelines place those eligible for the grants in the ALICE  (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population. (Learn more about ALICE online.)

The ALICE population is made up of people working low-paying jobs. In many instances, this population was hit hardest by the economic impact of the pandemic.

“They were the ones very impacted,” Walraven says. “Not that we weren’t all impacted, everyone was impacted. But that group was disproportionally impacted.”

Walraven, who served as County Treasurer from 2019 to earlier this year, says many families told her they were barely scraping together enough money for rent, mortgage, and utility payments.

“I think it’s an anxiety point for people.” Walraven says. “From being county treasurer and talking to people, they’re very concerned about losing their homes. The county board was really interested in making sure that money was getting into residents’ hands, the ones who were suffering."

Other statewide programs also exist to help, such as COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) and the Michigan Homeowner Assistance Fund (MIHAF).

Local and statewide programs have made a difference for people, Walraven says. “People are using the money wisely and toward making sure they stay in their homes.”

Applications for the new county program are available on the Bay County government website, by calling (989) 895-4297, or by emailing Walk-ins will not be accepted.

“We are receiving applications steadily,” Walraven adds.