Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Calhoun County series.
Calhoun County residents who need assistance with paying their rent or utilities are being encouraged to apply before a portal established for emergency rental and utility assistance closes in May, says Annette Chapman, Senior Vice President with the Battle Creek Community Foundation.
In March of 2021 Calhoun County received its first allocation of $7.6 million from the Michigan State Department of Housing Authority’s (MSHDA) COVID Emergency Rent Assistance
(CERA) program. As the Continuum of Care for Calhoun County
, the Battle Creek Community Foundation (BCCF) is the fiduciary for the CERA program and Neighborhoods Inc. is the Housing Assistance Resource Agency (HARA) and they are making the direct payments to those who are eligible, Chapman says.
Since receiving the first allocation, a collaborative of community organizations have supported the distribution of $10.4 million in direct financial assistance to 1,913 households, including 4,700 people, or 4% of residents in Calhoun County, according to information provided in a press release.
But Chapman says the dollars available for direct financial assistance is closer to $14 million.
“We were initially granted $7.6 million. MSHDA added more funding to that over time, so the grand total is $14.6 million. In addition to that, they awarded another round of money in January called CERA 2 and that amounted to $2.5 million over and above the $14 million,” Chapman says. “We have awarded more than $10 million now and we are continuing to make these distributions because we have a lot of people in the queue.”
Even after the portal to access these dollars closes, Chapman says there are additional program dollars available through the Tenant Based Rental Assistance, Community Development Block Grant, and Emergency Solutions Grant for individuals who meet the eligibility requirements to receive those funds.
The number of people receiving assistance and the total amount of direct assistance provided will continue to rise until approximately $14 million is distributed, the press release says.
The breakdown of those who received assistance as of February 2022:
● Race and Ethnicity of Approved Households
○ 57% are people of color
○ 43% are white
○ 4% are Hispanic / Latino/a
● Age of Heads of Households
○ 65% are 40 years old or younger
○ 29% are between 41 - 59 years old
○ 6% are 60 years or older
● Zip Codes of Approved Households
○ 54% are in Battle Creek zip codes (49015, 49017, 49014, 49016)
○ 29% are in Springfield/Battle Creek (49037)
○ 9% are in Albion (49224)
○ 4% are in Marshall (49068)
○ 1% in Homer (49245) and 1% in other zip codes in Calhoun County
● Average household size:
Looking ahead to whether the need for this assistance will increase or decrease, Chapman says, “People are hard to predict and it’s hard to say if there’s going to be a need. I’d like to think that with the economy bouncing back, lower numbers of COVID, and people going back to work, the need may decrease.”
Chapman says those individuals applying for and receiving this assistance, may have lost a job or been laid off during the pandemic.
As funds are phased out, residents who need assistance to make their rent and utility payments are encouraged to reach out directly to Neighborhoods Inc., (269) 968-1113 or www.nibc.org
. Residents who are facing eviction are encouraged to contact Legal Services of South Central Michigan, (269) 965-3951 or www.michiganlegalhelp.org
Partnering organizations that have supported this massive distribution of direct financial assistance include Neighborhoods Inc., Legal Services of South Central Michigan, the Housing Solutions Board, the Coordinating Council, Voces, The Southwestern Michigan Urban League, BCCF, Summit Pointe, Community Action of South Central Michigan, and the Battle Creek Coalition for Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation.