Salt Lake City offers $500 and rent help to those struggling because of the pandemic

More than $1 million available as thousands of Utah residents face eviction.

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks at a news conference on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020.

As the federal eviction moratorium may end on Jan. 1, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said keeping a roof over residents’ heads is a top priority.

The mayor announced $1.1 million in rental assistance Thursday, available to all city residents, regardless of their documentation status. Applicants will receive the money as a grant, not a loan, and it can be used to pay current or back rent.

“Right now, at this very minute, there are members of our community who are struggling to make ends meet, and don’t know how they’ll pay their rent or mortgage next month,” Mendenhall said at a news conference. “We’re nearing the end of what has been a very long and trying year for many Salt Lakers.”

The city is also providing $500 “Salt Laker Card” cash cards, available to people who were not eligible to receive federal stimulus checks distributed last spring. The debit cards can be used to pay for food, rent, utilities and other essential household bills.

“We know we have at least 2,700 tax-paying Salt Lakers who were not able to qualify for that aid because of documentation and other hardships,” Mendenhall said.

Rise Up Salt Lake City, a community nonprofit, raised funds for the cards. Those wishing to donate or who believe they qualify for assistance can find more information at raiseupslc.com.

The mayor urged city residents who are facing eviction to immediately contact People’s Legal Aid at plautah.org or (801) 477-6975. Those needing help with rent can call Utah Community Action at 801-359-2444 or utahca.org.

“If you want to access our services, we are experiencing a very high call volume, so we encourage you to apply online,” said Sahil Oberoi with Utah Community Action, adding that the organization can process applications within a week.

“I want to reiterate this funding is available to all individuals,” Oberoi said. “Due to this pandemic, we’re seeing individuals that have experienced or need rent assistance for the very first time. we’re seeing folks that were let go from the airline industries, those who ... worked at banks or software companies.”

Of the 290,000 rental units in Utah, 50,000 to 60,000 are at risk of eviction, according to information presented to the Salt Lake County Council earlier this week. That represents as much as a $160 million rent shortfall in the state come January.

In Salt Lake County, 21,000 households could face eviction next month. As many as one in four renters have experienced negative impacts from the pandemic.

Members of Congress are currently clashing over a new stimulus bill that could provide more aid to those economically strapped due to the pandemic.

“I want our residents to know that I’ve been advocating for the passage of that bill with our representatives in Washington,” Mendenhall said. “But as we wait to see if Congress will do something, we will not wait to act here at Salt Lake City Hall.”

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