Opinion

Assistance for renters and homeowners available

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Iowa's renters and homeowners impacted by COVID-19 are now able to apply for assistance with rent and mortgage payments through two assistance programs.

The Iowa Rent and Utility Assistance Program will provide eligible COVID-19 impacted renters with rent and/or utility assistance for a total of up to 12 months. General eligibility requirements require that applicants:

• Be current renters earning no more than 80% of their county’s area median income.

• One or more individuals in the household must have either qualified for unemployment benefits or have experienced a documented financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability which may include a past due utility or rent notice or eviction notice.

 

The Iowa Homeowner Eviction Prevention Program reopened applications this week to provide eligible COVID-19 impacted homeowners at imminent risk of eviction with mortgage assistance for up to four months, with a maximum assistance per household of $3,600. The short-term program will be available until funds are exhausted or a new federal program is launched. Program funding is provided through federal CARES Act funds. Program eligibility details are available under Assistance for Homeowners at IowaHousingRecovery.com

HOUSE PASSES CHANGES TO BROADBAND PROGRAM

This week the House unanimously passed House File 848 making changes to Iowa’s broadband grant program. When the governor introduced her bill, it made significant changes to the existing broadband grant program and focused on increasing broadband speeds around the state. The emphasis should be placed on connecting Iowans who currently do not have access to broadband internet.

The product of the resulting conversations and negotiations resulted in a bill that focused on both speed of deployment and internet speeds. Grant funds will be eligible at varying based on the internet speed (or lack thereof) available to Iowans. Broadband infrastructure projects must deploy fiber to targeted service areas to receive grant funds, except for Tier 1 areas where projects must be capable of 100/20 to receive a 50% match.

• Tier 1 areas have speeds of 25/3 or less and are eligible for up to a 75% match.

• Tier 2 areas have speeds from 25/3 to 50/? and are eligible for up to a 50% match.

• Tier 3 areas have speeds from 50/? to 80/? and are eligible for up to a 35% match

Other changes include new scoring criteria to encourage projects in Tier 1 areas, allocating 20% of grant funds for hard to serve areas within Tier 1 (e.g. based on topography, soil, or other unique local conditions), and having a designated employee to help with grant applications for state, federal, and private funds.

House File 848 sets the framework for aggressively building out Iowa’s broadband infrastructure to ensure all Iowans have access to broadband internet. However, this policy bill will have limited effect without a significant financial investment in the grant program. So far, we are talking about committing $100 million, but as session unfolds, that number could change.