Need for rent and utility assistance continues amid pandemic

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — As COVID-19 case numbers decrease, many people are feeling long-term financial effects from the pandemic.

“It’s a struggle in Pitt County, whether it’s COVID or not,” said Jan Elliott, director of the Department of Social Services.

People in Eastern North Carolina are trying to catch back up after a year of COVID.

“Lots of our folks were working two or three jobs already and trying to make ends meet, and you’re paying rent that’s closer to 40 or 50 percent, by the time you add utilities to it, it’s very easy to fall behind,” said Elliott.

The Pitt County Department of Social Services has always offered utility assistance programs. They award around $1 million each year. Now, through federal funds, they’re helping people pay their rent, too.

“When COVID first hit and people started losing their jobs and were waiting for unemployment, folks were lining up outside our doors,” said Elliott.

The CARES Act is also allowing cities like Greenville to offer rent assistance.

“We are acting quickly, communicating with landlords, letting them know their tenants are working with us,” said Tiana Berryman, housing administrator for the City of Greenville.

These leaders say the funds are helping, but there’s never enough to go around.

“At some point, it’s going to come to an end, and some folks are still not going to be made whole yet that will be a problem,” said Elliott.

Leaders in Pitt County and the City of Greenville aren’t sure what the future holds for assistance programs. Right now, they’re trying to help as many people as they can as quickly as they can.

“We do have a five year timeline to expend these funds, so they won’t be here forever,” said Berryman.

“It’s a community problem, and as a community we’re going to have to dig out of it,” said Elliott.

There are more programs helping people facing eviction. Gov. Roy Cooper’s HOPE program is taking its second round of applicants. As of last Wednesday, the state gave out over $9 million worth of funding.

To find more programs where you live, click here.

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