February 05, 2021
Eighty Four, PA – The Washington County Community Foundation (WCCF) recently awarded a total of $100,000 in grants to two local charities to address low-income housing issues in Washington County specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Blueprints received $50,000 for its Home Ownership Pandemic Response Fund and Connect received $50,000 for its Security Deposit Program.
“We were happy to learn that Washington County will be receiving significant dollars through the federal CARES Act for housing and utility assistance for low-income residents,” said Betsie Trew, WCCF President & CEO. “But through conversations with Blueprints and Connect, we learned that there would still be unmet needs in our community specifically related to mortgage and utility assistance for homeowners and security deposits for renters. We commend Blueprints and Connect for quickly implementing programs to address these unmet needs and appreciate that both organizations have waived their normal administrative fees so 100% of these grants will directly benefit low-income families.”
Homeowners who became unemployed after March 1, 2020, or who have suffered at least a 30% reduction in income due to reduced work hours and wages related to COVID-19, would be eligible for assistance with missed mortgage and utility payments through the Home Ownership Pandemic Response Fund at Blueprints. To apply, homeowners must live in Washington County and be the owner-occupant of their residence; they must have a household income at or below 100% of Area Median Income; and they must have a mortgage and/or utilities that are at least 30-days delinquent. The assistance available for homeowners can be up to $1,000 a month for a maximum period of six months. Financial assistance payments will be made directly to the mortgage holder and/or the utility companies. Additionally, each household will receive ongoing assistance with budgeting as well as direct linkages to Blueprints’ extensive array of programming including family literacy, career development, computer classes, and nutrition assistance. Blueprints may be reached at 724-225-9550.
“Blueprints is so grateful to the Foundation for their leadership and responsiveness to our community,” remarked Darlene Bigler, Blueprints CEO. “The Home Ownership Pandemic Response Fund will help local homeowners avoid the likelihood of losing their homes due to the financial impact of COVID-19, enable them to get back on track with mortgage and utility payments, and move forward with their lives.”
In far too many situations in our community, multiple families are living in a housing unit designed for a single family. This living arrangement is never optimal, but during the pandemic it has been a significant contributing factor to a higher rate of virus transmission for low-income families. A common obstacle for families seeking rental units is that most require families to pay a security deposit, typically one month’s rent, in addition to the payment for their portion of the first month's rent. Trying to attain that large one lump sum can be an insurmountable obstacle for struggling families. The Security Deposit Program at Connect will provide up to $500 per family toward the required security deposit, removing a significant obstacle for that family. Families will be assessed through Connect’s screening process, considering the family’s current sources of income, housing history, current resources for ongoing housing stability, as well as other social factors. Families will need to demonstrate that they are able to sustain their rental units after this assistance is received, through verification of an ongoing supportive housing subsidy program or by verification of a sustainable income. Connect will also assist families in connecting with other financial relief programs such as utility assistance programs and food security programs, with a goal to attain budgetary stability for the family. Connect may be reached at 724-229-3387.
"Connect is experiencing an increase in calls for this type of assistance and we anticipate that as the eviction moratorium nears its end in March, we will see an even greater increase,” said Lyndsay Burrik, Connect Executive for Community Wellness and Recovery. “This grant will help ensure that families in our community will be able to secure housing more quickly, alleviating a significant burden for our neighbors in need during a very difficult time."
Both grants are being awarded from the Foundation’s Close to Home Disaster and Emergency Fund. Created in March 2020, the fund has issued grants of more than $600,000 to local charities responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. All grants were made possible by the generosity of local donors who wished to help during this difficult time. Contributions to the fund may be made by visiting the Foundation’s website at www.wccf.net or by contacting the Foundation at 724-222-6330. The Foundation has waived its normal administrative fee for this fund.
About the WCCF
The WCCF promotes and facilitates local philanthropy in an effort to improve the quality of life in Washington County. In addition to issuing grants to local non-profits, the Foundation also issues both need-based and merit-based scholarships to local students, and facilitates an annual day of giving that benefits more than 100 local charities. To learn more about the Foundation’s activities, please visit www.wccf.net.