Alaska uses CARES Act funds to set up lottery for rent and mortgage relief

The Island Hills apartment complex in  Juneau. The state housing authority is offering assistance on rent and mortgage payments for Alaskans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (KTOO file photo)

In an effort to keep Alaskans in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state housing authority is offering assistance with mortgage and rent payments.

The program is run through the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

“One of the things that we have been hearing consistently for the last few months is that people are concerned about paying for their rent or paying for their mortgage,” said AHFC spokeswoman Stacy Barnes said. “And if they’re unable to do that, that they would be evicted or they would be foreclosed upon.”

The funding for the program comes from $10 million of the $1.5 billion the state received in federal CARES Act funding. Those who qualify for the program are families who have lost income due to the pandemic, and now at less than 80 percent of their area median income.

“The area median income in Kotzebue is $62,000,” Barnes said, “So to be eligible for this program, you would need to be making in your household, no more than $49,600, post-COVID.”

The amount is a little higher in Alaska’s larger communities. In Anchorage, the household income threshold is just under $78,000. In Fairbanks it’s roughly $74,500, while in Juneau, it’s just over $94,000.

Those who apply for the program would be put in a lottery system to receive a one-time $1,200 payment that could go towards paying for rent or a mortgage. Barnes says a lot of CARES Act funding across the country is distributed on a first-come first served basis, and she says using a lottery system allows rural communities a better chance at getting assistance.

“By allowing everyone to participate over that two-week window and lotterying the names at the end, everyone in Alaska who’s experienced hardship has an equal opportunity to receive funds,” Barnes said.

Barnes says the state anticipates serving between 8,000 and 12,000 households with the $10 million.

The application window for the program opens Monday, June 15 and closes Friday, June 26 at 11:59 p.m.. The AHFC plans on distributing the money in July.

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