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Nonprofit, county leaders to provide housing, utility relief to Lee County residents affected by pandemic
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Nonprofit, county leaders to provide housing, utility relief to Lee County residents affected by pandemic

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Alabama Rural Ministry and the Lee County Commission announced plans to provide mortgage, rental and utility bill assistance to residents in Lee County adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic beginning July 26.

Lisa Pierce, the founder of Alabama Rural Ministry, said Director of the Emergency Management Agency of Lee County Rita Smith got the nonprofit together with the county in order to help distribute the funds after the work they did in the aftermath of the tornadoes in March 2019.

“This will help assist families that have had significant impacts from losing income because of COVID and being at risk of losing housing, which is a huge risk,” Pierce said. “Even though we’re kind of coming out of it … it’s just to help people as their recovering and to help with their housing, which is just one more piece of helping them get back on their feet.”

The Emergency Housing and Utility Assistance Program will go towards income-eligible applicants to help them cover the costs of housing expenses, though applicants must meet a series of criteria in order to receive funding.

Lawton Vallely, a disaster case manager with Alabama Rural Ministry, said they would only approve applications from those living in parts of the county that weren’t incorporated into Auburn or Opelika, as those two cities have their own programs.

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Additionally, applicants must have a low or extremely low income, have experienced a 30 percent or more loss of income due to COVID-19 and be able to provide all required documentation.

The total maximum award offered will be $1,500 and will be able to cover up to three months worth of past-due expenses, with no duplication of benefits to be given out.

“ARM’s focus has always been on affordable housing and looking into rural areas and how we can help target those areas that need it most,” Vallely said. “ARM helped with the tornado recovery in March 2019, so we already had a system set up … and we wanted to make sure people in the county weren’t left out from this relief package.”

Funding for the program was provided to the Lee County Commission by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Covid-19 Grant Program, and applicants can learn more and apply for assistance at www.arm-al.org/covidassistance

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