Wichita prepares to launch rental assistance program

The city will have $12 million to provide rental and utility assistance.
Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 11:30 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The message from the City of Wichita is help is on the way.

The city is preparing to launch an Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

“We are hoping to have it up and available before the end of February. We are pushing the sooner, the better we can have it up, but we definitely want to give the public at least seven days notice before we start taking applications,” said City of Wichita Director of Housing and Community Services Sally Stang.

The program is developed out of the $25 billion set aside in December 2020 federal pandemic relief package. Wichita received their own allocation separate from the one the state received.

“We received just over 12 million dollars. We actually received the entire amount upfront,” said Stang. “We do expect to use every dollar of that in our community.”

Director of Housing and Community Services for the City of Wichita, Sally Stang said as they get this program up and running, documentation from applicants will be key.

“Complicated program unfortunately due to the regulations but we do believe this is a tremendous resource for our community. It’s going to help people not only get caught up but not have to worry in a week that rent is due again,” said Stang.

When the program starts, there are three main requirements.

The first is residency.

“That is one of the first questions when you start to apply is it’s going to ask ‘Do you live within the city limits of Wichita?’” said Stang.

Stang said the program being offered by the city is only for people within the city limits. With the federal funding the state received, a rental assistance program is being created through Kansas Housing Resources Corporation that should be available in March.

Stang said the city is working hand in hand with the state to help create uniform programs and prevent duplicate applications.

“The state received a very large allocation.” Stang said, “They’re going to be covering in the beginning here everything except for Wichita because we have our own funding at this time, and they’ll be there if we run out of money. I expect that they could still have money that could come back into Wichita.”

Second, applicants have to provide proof of a COVID-related financial impact.

Stang said, “That means loss of a job, reduced hours, reduced tips. It could even mean increased childcare expenses related to remote learning. It could be increased medical expenses related to COVID-19, but there has to be documentable financial impact related to COVID-19, and that seems to be people’s biggest challenge.”

The third component of the application is meeting the income requirement.

“They have to have income less than 80 percent of the area median income,” said Stang. “However, in the legislation itself, it requires that we [first] serve people whose income is less than 50 percent area median income or those who were employed in 2020 but have been unemployed for the last 90 days.”

Income Limit for Number of Persons in Family

Family Size​Very Low 50% AMILow Income 80% AMI

If approved, the program can be used to cover past and future rent or utility expenses.

It covers up to 12 months of assistance per family but is reviewed every three months.

Stang said, “Every case is going to be a little different. For instance, if we help a household that’s three months behind, we can get them caught up right away with that three-month payment, and then we’ll make three months perspective payments on the first of the month for three months. Then we have to recertify that the family is still eligible for the program, and if they are, we can pay another three months.”

Stang said the city is also working with United Way 2-1-1 to help provide people information on applying for the program. People can also find assistance at Neighborhood Resource Centers. They’re also reaching out to Kansas Legal Services to inform eviction attorneys and the Apartment Association of Greater Wichita to help inform landlords and property owners.

“We’ll also have a mechanism for an owner to start the process, so they’ll be able to log on and say I have a resident I believe is going to qualify, and that will trigger us to reach out to that resident,” said Stang.

They’re also going to be stationing staff at the WorkForce Center and Sedgwick County Courthouse.

“We will have staff stationed at the courthouse on the days they hear evictions so that they can try to intercede before an eviction actually happens,” she said.

Stang said she if people are having trouble paying bills right now, the best thing to do is talk.

“Communicate with your landlord. Communicate with the utility company.” Stang said, “Silence makes it worse.”

Ahead of the program launching, Stang is encouraging people to get their documents together to be ready to apply.

“We absolutely have to get source documents. We’re not allowed to use self-certification. We have to be able to prove that COVID-related impact and the person’s income and it’s the whole household’s income. There are documents that are going to be required,” said Stang.

She added, “Resources are coming, and they are coming soon. Very, very soon.”

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