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It's getting harder to find rent assistance in Charlotte. Here's why

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Pixabay

Charlotte renters who are struggling to pay their bills this winter will have a harder time finding help compared to previous years.

One big reason is that Mecklenburg County's emergency rental assistance program, RAMP CharMeck, has run out of money and stopped taking new applications.

The federal and county-funded program had disbursed about $123 million to more than 23,000 families for rent, utility or mortgage assistance since its creation in 2020 to help people financially affected by COVID-19.

However, the program wasn't meant to last forever, and staff gradually tightened restrictions on who qualified for help before they stopped taking new applications on Nov. 15.

Since then, some people have turned to Crisis Assistance Ministry, which has limited funds available to help people in crisis pay up to two months' rent and cover some utilities.

But the organization has seen a growing need over the past year that has stretched its resources, and it tightened restrictions in December on who can apply for rent assistance.

Now, Crisis Assistance Ministry will only accept rent assistance applications from people with an eviction filing and a court date.

Crisis Assistance Ministry's executive director, Carol Hardison, said the organization saw a 4% increase in people requesting more than $2,000 in utility assistance this year compared to 2019, and a 13% increase in people requesting more than $1,000 in utility assistance.

The organization has also been getting calls for assistance from about 100 households a day, while staff only have the capacity to assist about 80 a day.

"Instead of having people frustrated and saying, 'I haven't heard from anybody in a week or two,' let's let people know these are the people that we're able to see right now," Hardison said.

Hardison said restrictions could be eased in January after the group completes end-of-year fundraising and hires additional staff to help with demand.

Other organizations offering rent and utility assistance in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are listed at needhelppayingbills.com.

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Corrected: December 10, 2022 at 11:52 AM EST
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Crisis Assistance Ministry saw a 13% increase in rent assistance requests over $1,000 this year. In fact, utility assistance requests over $1,000 rose 13%, compared to 2019.
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