Merced County extends rent, utility assistance program

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Layoffs during the pandemic left many families without a steady income.

The Central Valley Opportunity Center no longer will handle applications for rental assistance in Merced County.

People now need to apply through the state's "Housing is Key" website.

Merced County Supervisor Daron McDaniel explained, "That was just because it was one point. It's' easier to access and this way, there was no confusion about either the federal program or the state program. It's all combined into one at this point."

McDaniel added the move was made to combine funding and streamline the process.

Terry Ruscoe of Merced Yosemite Realty has several renters who needed financial help because of the pandemic.

Ruscoe said, "I am truly amazed at how good people are because the people that have had challenges, they've continued to pay their rent. Those that can pay them on time are doing so."

Ruscoe has set up payment plans and dropped late fees for families short of cash.

He said helpful resources are still available for people in need.

"Not only what the state is doing and what the county's doing locally, but also, Merced," he said. "They have funding available. Utility funding, water, sewer and garbage assistance."

McDaniel said the new application process through the state is easy to fill out.

He added, "Let's not forget this isn't just for renters. This is also for the landlords as well so the renter and the landlord can work together to access these funds."

The first round of rental and utility assistance funding hasn't run out, but Merced County has another $7.7 million available for the program.

To qualify for rental and utility assistance in Merced County, residents must be at or below 80% of the area's median income, experienced hardship due to the pandemic and may be at risk of becoming homeless.

For more information on how to apply, go to Merced County's website or call: 1-833-430-2122.

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