Southampton offers rent relief program

  • Southampton Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/10/2021 10:44:02 AM

SOUTHAMPTON — The town has launched a short-term emergency rent relief program for residents who have experienced a COVID-related financial hardship and meet other eligibility requirements.

In addition to living in Southampton and being negatively impacted by COVID, renters must be behind in rent by at least one month and have a household income of no more than 80% of the area’s median income. For a two-person household that income figure is $54,650 and for a four-person household, $68,300.

The town set aside $6,000 in CARES Act funding to set up the program, which is being administered by Community Action Pioneer Valley and will grant awards of up to $1,000.

The program has yet to see any applicants as of last week, according to Janna Tetreault, assistant director of community services at Community Action Pioneer Valley. The organization did not expect a high volume of interest in Southampton due to the community’s smaller population and a relatively low number of renters living in town. With $6,000 set aside for the program, and renters receiving up to $1,000 in assistance, the town’s program was not designed to accommodate a high number of applicants.

Rent relief funds in other communities have generally been receiving less interest than when the first program of its kind launched in Amherst last summer, according to Tetreault.

Tetrault attributes this decline partially to an increase in options for rent assistance, including resources that have since become available at the state level.

Three other communities — Amherst, Easthampton, and Hadley — have set up emergency rent assistance programs administered by Community Action Pioneer Valley. Easthampton recently modified its rent relief program to expand eligibility through measures such as including applicants who are not yet behind on rent and allowing people who live together as roommates to be considered as having separate incomes, rather than combined.

While other options now exist, the program “promotes that help is out there,” said Jim Seney, chairman of the Southampton Housing Authority.

“If the resident can’t find assistance … through existing state funds, then it provides another funding option, that insurance,” he said.

Residents can apply by calling Community Action Pioneer Valley at 413-475-1570. More information on eligibility, including income limits by household size, is available at https://bit.ly/3trKgHV.

The town’s contract with Community Action Pioneer Valley lasts through the end of the year, with the option to extend.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.

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