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Des Moines seeks federal help for struggling renters

Officials expect to receive as much as $7 million, the majority of which would go directly to residents behind on their rent and utility payments.
Credit: WOI

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines City Council is asking for up $7 million in federal money to help provide rental assistance to residents struggling to pay housing costs during the pandemic.

The majority of the money -- 90% -- would go to direct financial assistance to help pay rent, past-due rent, utilities and other expenses related to housing.

The funds come from a $25-billion allocation in federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

The city would invest $100,000 into the Justice Center Project and the remaining funds to IMPACT. 

The Justice Center Project serves renters' as a last line of defense before facing eviction court. The group will grab landlords and tenants prior to a court hearing to see if they can help pay up the back rent for the landlord to dismiss the eviction. 

The amendment proposed to allow the funds to be used while staff and Polk County Housing Trust Fund to get the contract in place, meaning the funds will be used as soon as possible.

IMPACT provides energy, food and housing assistance in the city. The amendment proposed an advance of up to 10% of the funds to allow the program to begin. It will also allow the funds to be used while the contract is put in place. 

Neighborhood Services Director Chris Johansen said the city could receive the funds as early as Jan. 22. 

The motion passed unanimously.