FAIRMONT — In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority temporarily halted tenant evictions because of the nonpayment of rent, which became effective March 27.
However, rent that has gone unpaid during this period accumulates, and the suspension is set to be lifted effective July 4, according to the authority’s website.
While those who will still be unable to pay rent come July 4 could be at risk of eviction, Marion County nonprofit the Connecting Link has been awarded thousands of dollars in grant money to help those affected by the pandemic.
“These monies are specific to helping people in need,” said Jone Webb, executive director of the Connecting Link. “I want to make sure we can help as many people as possible.”
According to Webb, the Connecting Link has been seeing a number of residents on an appointment basis over the pandemic, for help with necessities such as food and rent. The increase has put a strain on the nonprofit, which these grants will help relieve.
“We have some people who come in and they’re two or three months behind in their rent,” Webb said. “We want to help get them caught up so when this is all over, if it’s all over, and they go back to a normal lifestyle that they don’t have to start so far behind that catch up is harder to do.”
Webb said the Connecting Link received three grants, one from the United Way’s COVID Relief Fund, one from the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness and one from the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, for a total of about $20,500. She said this money is available to help people pay for necessary costs until it runs out.
“I want to encourage people to come in now, and let’s resolve the problem and get them started,” Webb said.
Webb also said although many utilities won’t be turned off because of nonpayment right now, people will eventually need to catch up on those payments as well. The grant through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program is specifically to help residents with utility payments, Webb said.
“Don’t wait until the utility is ready to cut you off,” Webb said. “All utilities are still sending out termination notices, but people aren’t acting on them because they know the utility isn’t going to turn them off.”
The ability to provide aid to people who may be in need for the first time in their lives is a privilege to Webb. She said over the past few months, the Connecting Link has seen new kinds of clients come in for help, which is why this grant money is so imperative right now.
“I am thrilled that they come in, and a lot of them are embarrassed to come in and ask for help,” Webb said. “We just had a gentleman who had worked for 26 years at a place and was just now furloughed...Here is a man, 26 years under his belt, and now he is looking for help because he is stuck.”
To make an appointment with the Connecting Link, call its office at 304-363-4882.