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'Extraordinary' number of applicants as RAMP CharMeck restarts rent and utility assistance

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Staff at RAMP CharMeck have been flooded with an "extraordinary" number of applications for rent and utility assistance less than 48 hours after reopening it's application portal for the first time in months.

More than 1,900 applications were filed as of Wednesday afternoon, according to program staff, and the program's chief strategy officer, Erin Barbee, said that number was a near record.

"We haven't seen a number like this since February of 2021, when we reopened applications. And in those 15 days, we received 4,400 applications. I anticipate we will likely exceed that at the rate that we're going," Barbee said.

The program — which was formally known as RAMP CLT before rebranding last month — reopened applications for rent and utility assistance on March 1. New applications had been on hold since Dec. 15, 2021, when program staff quietly shut down the portal, fearing that that funding was running out.

Since then, Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte have pledged more money to the program. As of Wednesday, Barbee said the county and the state had pledged a combined $21.4 million, and the city was sending $2 million.

Barbee said it remained unclear how long the money would last, or how many people it would help. So far, the program has awarded about $7,000 on average per household.

In order to qualify for rent or utility assistance, applicants must fall into one of two categories. Either they must have lost work or income due to COVID-19, make less than 80% of the area's median income and have an eviction notice with a court date; or, they must have lost work or income due to COVID-19 and make less than 30% of the area's median income.

Program staff are reviewing the new applications for eligibility, but so far, Barbee said, many of the applicants do appear to meet the requirements.

"Now we'll go through that more deeply and begin to parse out who's eligible and who's not, but regardless, that number of applications that we've received thus far is extraordinary," Barbee said.

As in the past, the program will keep applications open from the first to the 15th of the month, then close the portal until reopening it again on the first day of the following month.

RAMP Charmerk is also taking applications for people who need help paying their mortgages or rental security deposits.

If the program runs out of money, it can ask the city or the county to request more money from the federal government.

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Corrected: March 3, 2022 at 10:31 AM EST
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified RAMP CharMeck's chief strategy officer, Erin Barbee, as the program's executive director.
Nick de la Canal is a reporter for WFAE covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal