Enews 9-16-21: Emergency Housing Vouchers; Childcare, Rental and Utility Assistance; Expanded Child Tax Credit

Johnson County’s Housing Authority and Continuum of Care on Homelessness Collaborate on Emergency Housing Vouchers

As the lead agency for Johnson County's Continuum of Care on Homelessness (CoC), UCS works with Johnson County Government and other partners to coordinate resources and lead initiatives to support people experiencing homelessness. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and increased need in Johnson County, the CoC has been building momentum for broader engagement across partner agencies to be more responsive to emerging needs. An example of successful engagement is the Emergency Housing Voucher (EHV) program, which launched in early August.

The EHV program is administered by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and was developed with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Through EHV, HUD is providing 70,000 housing choice vouchers to local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) across the country to assist individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness and/or fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence.

In Johnson County, the Johnson County Housing Authority accepted and will administer the full allotment of 62 vouchers offered by HUD. Now, 62 households will be eligible for the EHV program, which covers housing costs for vulnerable populations for up to nine years with the potential for continued support. “The 62 EHVs represent the first time additional vouchers have been received in our jurisdiction since 2010,” notes David Ward, Director of Housing Services with the Johnson County Housing Authority. Unlike the 1,447 existing Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) which are administered solely by Johnson County Housing Authority (JCHA), the 62 EHVs will be administered in partnership with United Community Services of Johnson County, The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Johnson County Mental Health, Safehome, Hillcrest, reStart and Jewish Family Services. Another key difference between the two programs is that clients seeking EHVs will receive active case management through partner agencies; regular HCV holders may not have regular case management.

“Collaboration with partner agencies brings a higher level of service to EHV clients since each entity provides assistance from its areas of specialization and strength,” says David Ward, Director of Housing Services at Johnson County Housing Authority. “EHVs represent a new program and all parties are committed to identifying and overcoming barriers that will inevitably be encountered as well as sharing success stories and best practices for collective benefit.”

An eligible household should contact a coordinated entry hub to access the wide range of services available to households experiencing homelessness. Eligible households will complete a standard assessment of vulnerability with agency partners and be added to the list of potential EHV recipients. After they complete an application, they can be referred to the program. Because EHV can pay up to 100% of the rent, it may be easier to get approval for an apartment or house for households in vulnerable situations.

“What’s unique and valuable about the EHV program is the turnaround time and the willingness to be flexible with the submission of required documents, "says Adrienne Owings, case manager at Safehome. “Clients fleeing domestic violence often have to leave their homes with only the 'clothes on their backs' and having to wait for important documents before they can apply for assistance can be a huge barrier. I have a client who I submitted documents for a week ago and we have a briefing meeting next week for her to get her voucher!”

The program is made possible because of an established partnership and memorandum of agreement between UCS as the CoC, Johnson County Housing Authority, and the seven partner agencies. Like other programs administered by Johnson County Housing Authority, EHV rental assistance funds are returned in their entirety to private property owners in our community.

“Combined with housing choice vouchers, EHVs bring JCHA’s annual local economic contribution to more than $13 million and provide stable housing for more than 3,000 vulnerable members of our community,” noted Mr. Ward.

The biggest impact, of course, is experienced by those recipients of EHVs who receive a safe home and supportive services. A domestic violence survivor who will soon receive a voucher says it best: “I am given another chance, finding myself again, and moving into my own place with complete peace and serenity in my heart.”

Need Child Care Assistance?

In an effort to improve access to quality, affordable childcare, more Kansas families will now have access to a new round of assistance through the Hero Relief Child Care Assistance Program. Any Kansas worker who makes 250% or less of the federal poverty level is now eligible for childcare assistance. The expansion also includes waiving the family share deduction for essential workers and reducing the deduction for all others. Families also will see an expanded eligibility period from six to 12 months.

***Those who may have applied for assistance but were denied due to income qualifications are urged to reapply due to the increase in income qualifications.

For more information and for instructions on how to apply, visit www.KSHeroRelief.com.

Expanded Child Tax Credit

The Internal Revenue Service has started sending letters to more than 36 million American families who, based on tax returns filed with the agency, may be eligible to receive monthly Child Tax Credit payments starting in July.

The expanded and newly-advanceable Child Tax Credit was authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act, enacted in March. The letters are going to families who may be eligible based on information they included in either their 2019 or 2020 federal income tax return or who used the Non-Filers tool on IRS.gov last year to register for an Economic Impact Payment.

Families who are eligible for advance Child Tax Credit payments will receive a second, personalized letter listing an estimate of their monthly payment, which began July 15.

Most families do not need to take any action to get their payment. To learn more, visit the IRS website.

Rental and Utility Assistance Available for Johnson County Residents

Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance (KERA) has over $18 million in funds for rental and utility assistance available to support Johnson County residents. Households can be eligible for up to one year of rental assistance (past due or future) and/or up to one year of late/past due utilities.

Apply online: https://kshousingcorp.org/emergency-rental-assistance/.

If you need help filling out the application, please call or email any of these agencies:

  • Jewish Family Services: (913) 327-8250, E-mail: info@jfskc.org
  • Catholic Charities - Overland Park: (913) 384-6608, 9806 W 87thSt, Overland Park KS
  • Catholic Charities – Olathe: (913) 782-4077, 333 E. Poplar St., Olathe KS
  • Salvation Army – Olathe Corp: (913) 782-3640 - ask for social services; 420 E Santa Fe, Olathe KS
  • El Centro: (913) 677-0100, Website: Contact Us | El Centro

To be eligible, households:

  • must be renting,
  • make less than 80% of Area Median Income (for example, $61,950/yr for a family of 3),
  • at least one member of the household must be experiencing a financial hardship directly or indirectly related to the COVID-19 virus (loss of employment, medical costs related to COVID, childcare costs, etc.),
  • at least one member of the household must have late or past due rent or utilities.

For utility assistance, households can apply directly for assistance through KERA and, if approved, utility providers will be paid directly. Utility assistance includes overdue utility charges, disconnect and reconnect fees.

For rental assistance, there are 2 parts to the application: one that the household/renter fills out and one that the landlord fills out. You can fill these out at the same time or separately. Rental assistance can be for back rent AND new rental charges. Payments are made directly to your account with your landlord.

For more information, please see this flyer.

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