County CARES Act Rent, Mortgage Assistance Program Expands

October 2, 2020, 9:10 AM HST (Updated October 2, 2020, 9:10 AM)
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Six Hawai‘i Island-based nonprofit partners have disbursed more than $1.2 million in housing grants to 338 island households in the program’s first four weeks for Hawai‘i County’s Rent and Mortgage Assistance Program (RMAP).

The nonprofit partner organizations are now disbursing approximately $1 million per week and are on track to spend down $7.25 million by Nov. 30.

Key to the program’s success has been the partnership between the program’s lead agency, Hawai‘i Community Lending (HCL), and Hawai‘i County in modifying the RMAP to address barriers for applicants, application processing, and encouraging more residents to apply.

County residents who are at least 18 years old and lost income or work hours due to COVID-19 may be eligible for up to $2,000 per month for rent, lease, or mortgage payments. The previous grant limit was $1,000 per month.

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“By increasing the monthly rent and mortgage assistance allotment will better match the high cost of housing and further cushion impacted families in the months ahead,” said Diane Ley, director of the County’s Department of Research and Development. “The County urges all families who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to apply. Do not disqualify yourself; instead, work with the County’s partners, as they are available to assist.”

Other changes include reimbursement for payments made with personal resources, such as savings, credit cards, personal loans, or assistance from family or friends. In addition, households who entered into a forbearance or payment agreement with their mortgage lender or landlord for payments that were due between March and December 2020 may now be eligible. Residents who previously applied to RMAP and were rejected are encouraged to reapply.

“RMAP is a demonstration of a successful public-private partnership at a time when our families are so desperately in need of financial assistance,” said Jeff Gilbreath, HCL Director of Lending and Development. “Our role as nonprofit partners is clear: to be an advocate for our applicants and to use data to inform the prudent and efficient disbursement of relief funds to those who need. We mahalo all our RMAP partners and the County of Hawai‘i in staying focused first-and-foremost on getting $7.25 million into our community.”

According to Gilbreath, RMAP eligibility requirements and process was informed by the State Legislature’s COVID Housing Workgroup, a broad base of community leaders with expertise in disbursement of emergency funding. The Workgroup developed a set of recommendations in June for disbursement housing grants using CARES Act funds in the hopes of informing both State and County programs for this purpose.

Applications are processed by six Hawai‘i Island-based nonprofits. Approved applicants will also have access to no cost, confidential financial counseling services. To see if you are eligible, contact an RMAP nonprofit partner:

To qualify for rent or mortgage assistance grants, applicants must meet the following qualifications:

  • Be a Hawai‘i Island resident
  • At least 18 years old
  • Lost or reduced income or work hours due to COVID-19, and
  • Current annual household income at or below 140% of area median income for the number of members in their household. See chart below to see if your household income qualifies.

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