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COVID-19 rental assistance may soon be a reality for Lynchburg residents

COVID-19 rental assistance may soon be a reality for Lynchburg residents


Lynchburg residents struggling to make rent and mortgage payments because of the coronavirus pandemic soon may see financial relief if a slate of grant proposals endorsed by city officials wins approval this week.

On Tuesday, Lynchburg City Council will consider a request by three area nonprofits to devote $285,000 in federal aid to residents who have lost income as a result of the health crisis and economic downturn.

  • Lynchburg Community Action Group is requesting $170,000 for rent, mortgage and utility assistance.
  • Miriam’s House is requesting $75,000 for rent and utility assistance.
  • Interfaith Outreach is requesting $40,000 for rent, mortgage and utility assistance.

The aid is part of more than $420,000 in emergency funding awarded to the Hill City by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to address housing and homelessness issues exacerbated by COVID-19.

The funding, known as Community Development Block Grants, can be used for a variety of purposes, according to HUD guidelines, including rental assistance and rapid rehousing programs for people facing homelessness.

“After the 2008 recession, our community and communities across the country saw an increase in households experiencing homelessness,” Sarah Quarantotto, executive director of Miriam’s House, said in an email. “It is our hope that measures such as increased CDBG funding will result in history not repeating itself by both providing assistance before a household becomes homeless and then quickly helping homeless households get back into housing and linked with employment opportunities.”

The pandemic has devastated the local economy, forcing large numbers of businesses to scale back or close completely. As a result, about 4,500 people in Lynchburg — about 12% of the city’s workforce — filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

The need for housing assistance became more immediate this week after eviction hearings resumed for the first time in about two months. On Monday and Wednesday, more than 50 Lynchburg households were ordered to vacate their homes, court records showed.

Top city officials already have recommended city council approve the grant proposals and Mayor Treney Tweedy said Friday she is in favor of signing off on the requests.

“This pandemic is an emergency and people are in crisis situations,” Tweedy said. “The additional funds will support people during this time period. We’re hoping to help people get through this and come through on the other side better.”

If approved, the housing assistance will be available only to low-income Lynchburg residents who have lost work as a direct result of the pandemic. In all, the nonprofits anticipate serving nearly 200 households with the funding.

Denise Crews, director of housing counseling & community development for Lyn-CAG, said the assistance allocated to her agency could be distributed to residents by July.

Rent and mortgage assistance isn’t the only thing city council will consider using the emergency funding for at next week’s meeting. The seven-member body also will weigh proposals to use the remainder of the more than $420,000 in federal aid for an advertising campaign promoting COVID-19 awareness and for creating 2,400 pandemic preparedness kits complete with face masks and hand sanitizer for school-aged children.

Council is scheduled to consider the grant proposals during its Tuesday meeting in City Hall following a public hearing. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be streamed online at

Richard Chumney covers Liberty University for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.

Richard Chumney covers Liberty University for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.

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