Homeowners hit by COVID-19 hardship may qualify for $25,000

Published 5:02 pm Monday, March 28, 2022

MICHIGAN — Berrien and Cass County residents who have endured financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic now have an opportunity for relief, and employees from both counties are working to spread the word.

As of Feb. 14, Michigan homeowners who qualify for the Michigan Homeowners Assistance Fund can receive up to $25,000 for assistance for payments related to utilities, property taxes, mortgages, broadband and more.

“If a taxpayer feels they qualify, they should apply,” Cass County Treasurer Hope Anderson said. “Cass County has about 80 people who are on payment plans to the county for their property taxes, and some of those people are in hardship situations … a lot of them qualify for this program. This will help them get caught up.”

The $242 million MIHAF fund was established under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to help Michigan homeowners who had a qualifying financial hardship associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. To qualify, a household income must be equal to or less than 150% of area median income. 

Berrien County housing coordinator Katie Montoya said the rollout of the program has seen a few communication glitches in its rollout, but believes the program will benefit residents.

“There’s some confusion as to how this was marketed, or how communication was given to municipalities to know about the opportunity of getting paid for delinquencies,” said Montoya, adding she hadn’t received communication from the MDHHS about it. “I had to go seek it out and research for myself so I could better help people when they call.”

Anderson said preventing homeowner foreclosures is important to her, and wants to do her part to share the information. 

“Who is telling [residents] they can get assistance with their delinquent mortgages? No one,” Anderson said . “This assistance can help people get caught up on their bills, and we’re just trying to do our part to get the information shared.” 

Applicants must also explain their financial hardship directly related to COVID-19. 

“We just had a guy come in and he owns his own business,” Anderson said. “Well, during COVID, all of his work slowed down and he couldn’t make that up. He still hasn’t totally caught up. I told him that is a COVID-related hardship – he’s behind on his property taxes, and this program is supposed to help him get caught up.”

According to Montoya, a financial institution recently reached out to her because a Niles resident could not sign up because the Niles water and electric services were not listed as providers. 

“So they were kind of in a standstill,” Montoya said. “But I think it’s a great program that’s available. … $25,000 is a good chunk of money that can help somebody get out of the troubles they are experiencing.”

According to Anderson, a Cass County single-person home would have to make less than $79,900 or $81,850 for a two-person home. In Berrien County, single-resident household income would need to be less than $84,486.

Telamon Corporation, which is the Housing Counseling Agency serving Cass County, is in the Cass County Government Offices building, 120 N. Broadway St., Cassopolis, every Thursday to help people apply for the fund. Telamon has already scheduled two months’ worth of meetings, Anderson said. Cass County residents can visit casscountymi.org or call the Treasurer’s Office at 269-445-4468 for more information.

All Michigan homeowners can see if they qualify or apply online at mihaf.michigan.gov. They can also call MIHAF at 844-756-4423, or dial 211, for more information.