Burlington may use federal funds to help some pay rent

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The city of Burlington is working on a renters assistance program to help some of the city’s 60% of renters during the pandemic.

Luke McGowan, the director of the city's Community Economic Development Office, says Burlington received $450,000 of community development block grants funding from the federal government for coronavirus relief. He says they plan to split that money in half and create one program for small businesses and one for renters.

“We certainly know that this is a long-running crisis so we are preparing ourselves for increased demand for rental assistance here in Burlington,” McGowan said.

To get an idea of how to design this program, and how much money to send to each renter a month, the city is evaluating how other cities are approaching rental assistance.

“Normally, it gets capped at a certain amount so it would be something like $3,500 bucks cap per household,” McGowan said.

The city has not yet decided on a number. As required by the feds, the city first needs to get public feedback for 15 days before submitting the proposal to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for approval.

Burlington renters like Nick Trace say they support any help the city is willing to give.

“The job opportunities are cut down right now and bills, for the most part, aren’t. They’re still coming at you,” Trace said.

Fernando Jimenez says he has personally not been severely financially impacted by the pandemic but thinks the renters assistance program will benefit a lot of people.

“I think it’d be very beneficial. Not necessarily in my situation but to other renters who are struggling, I think that would be a really good thing to do to help them out,” he said.

James Gunger agreed. “I know that so many people in Burlington are renting that I would imagine people need help,” he said. “And if that’s the case, then yeah, I think it’s a good idea.”

McGowan says the city is on track to submit its proposal to the federal government by early June. The federal government then has 45 days to respond.

If you need immediate help and can’t wait until then, you can seek rental help through the Champlain Valley Office for Economic Opportunities.

You can call these numbers:
Chittenden County: (802) 863-6248 ext. 4
Addison County: (802) 388-2285
Franklin and Grand Isle Counties: (802) 527-7392