By Conrad Dudderar
Canadian County residents facing housing crisis and eviction as a result of COVID-19 may now receive some extra financial help.
Tenants are encouraged to review their eligibility to determine if they qualify for rent and/or utilities assistance through Community Cares Partners.
“This is an encouragement for tenants and landlords to work together,” Canadian County Special Judge Barbara Hatfield said. “There are funds that the landlords can receive to pay the rent that’s due by the tenants.”
“People can even apply for the benefits before they file any type of forcible entry and detainer action in small claims court. We want people to be more proactive and aware of the funds that are available to pay current and future rent.”
Community Cares Partners (CCP), a public-private partnership and program of Communities Foundation of Oklahoma, is making a difference across the state through the distribution of over $200 million in Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) allocated by the State of Oklahoma.
ERA funds can help with the payment of rent and certain utilities for qualifying residents who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is the second round of eviction-prevention funding that has been distributed by CCP.
In 2020, the program provided over $21 million in rent, utility and other assistance to Oklahomans impacted by the pandemic through funding from the (CARES Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.
Many Canadian County tenants and landlords are not aware of these housing stability funds, according to Judge Hatfield.
“When funds were available last year under the CARES Act, they weren’t as expansive as they are now,” she noted. “And our county didn’t receive much of a benefit from them.”
Then, the financial help was generally limited to Oklahoma’s three largest counties by population – Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland.
“In the past, when we had people who came to small claims court, we would ask them if they had applied for any funds,” Hatfield related. “They said, ‘Yes, but there aren’t any more funds available’.”
The housing stability program has expanded through CCP with the fund distribution now “readily available” to Canadian County, the judge added.
“They’re doing a great job getting the information out and processing funds as quickly as possible.”
Canadian County has Oklahoma’s fourth largest population with an estimated 150,000 residents.
All applicants for the housing stability program must begin the process by submitting an application at http://www.okccp.org to determine if they are eligible.
Anyone facing an immediate eviction should contact Legal Aid in addition to applying for CCP assistance.
“Our ultimate goal is to help our neighbors maintain housing stability,” CCP Executive Director Ginny Bass Carl said. “Last year, we had the privilege of assisting over 5,600 households and 1,400 landlords, and we plan to help many, many more households this year.”
For more information, including eligibility criteria, frequently asked questions and a link to the application, visit www.okccp.org or dial 211.