WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansans struggling to cover rent and utility payments due to COVID may qualify for up to 12 months of emergency assistance thanks to new federal relief.

“I was very grateful that there was even a program like that, that was, that was around to assist people of all walks of life,” said Wichita renter, Duane Martin. “You kind of feel a little shame at the beginning. Initially you’re like, well, I don’t want to apply for this because I don’t want to take away from people that really need it, but you’re a person that really needs it at the time.”

The initiative, funded through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, provides the state of Kansas with $200 million to support housing stability and prevent evictions and homelessness. Kansas Housing Resources Corporation (KHRC) and the City of Wichita will administer the funds.  

Kansas Housing Resource Corporation Executive Director, Ryan Vincent said when the program started in the fall there were thousands of applicants, which showed there is a great need for emergency rental assistance and utility assistance.

“We received almost 10,000 applications from tenant households with almost 30,000 Kansans living in them,” said Vincent. “There were 4,000 landlords involved in the last program as well so it shows the scale of the amount of need that’s out there.”

Tenants may qualify for assistance if they earn no more than 80 percent of their area’s median income, are experiencing documented financial hardship as a result of the COVID pandemic, and may be at risk of housing instability or homelessness without assistance.  

“In unprecedented times of hardship, it’s imperative that we step up to provide security to those in need,” said Sally Stang, Director of Housing and Community Services for the City of Wichita. “Everyone needs a little help now and then, and we want to ensure that families and individuals who need help to stay in their homes receive it.” 

Wichita residents may apply through the Wichita Emergency Rental Assistance Program (WERAP) administered by the city’s Housing and Community Services division. The city’s online application will open on Monday, Feb. 22.   

“If that help is there for you, why not take advantage of it and and then at another time you can give back and help someone else or maybe see a program that does help people out, then, there’s your opportunity to kind of go full circle,” said Martin.

Kansans living outside the Wichita city limits may apply through the Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance (KERA) program administered by KHRC. The online KERA application will open on Monday, March 15.  

“If you need the help, just apply for it and just be thankful that it’s there because it can get you through some extremely turbulent times,” said Martin.

The KERA and WERAP programs follow the 2020 Kansas Eviction Prevention Program (KEPP), a $20 million assistance initiative administered by KHRC with federal CARES Act funding. In the roughly 60 days that the program was in statewide operation, KHRC received 10,138 applications for more than $25 million requested in assistance, representing 27,200 Kansans financially impacted by COVID.