Heart of West Michigan United Way receives rental assistance grant


Michelle Van Dyke. Courtesy Heart of West Michigan United Way

Grand Rapids Community Foundation provided Heart of West Michigan United Way a $100,000 recoverable grant to help renters in Kent County stay in their homes.

“We are so grateful to the Community Foundation and eager to bring relief to renters who have struggled to afford stable housing during the pandemic,” said Michelle Van Dyke, president and CEO of Heart of West Michigan United Way.

Through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program provides rent, utility and internet assistance to Michigan residents who fell behind on payments during the pandemic.

The program is a statewide allocation from the emergency relief assistance bill passed by the U.S. Congress in December. Kent County will receive approximately $39 million to support low-to-moderate income households.

MSHDA awarded a CERA grant to Heart of West Michigan United Way to bring the program to Kent County. As grant administrator, United Way was responsible for both the efforts and expenses associated with developing the program’s framework before reimbursement funds from MSHDA became available.

Recognizing the growing need for rental assistance during the pandemic, the Community Foundation quickly stepped up to offer a recoverable grant to help ease the financial burden.

“Working together, we were able to provide immediate access to funds to ensure as many people as possible where able to avoid eviction while the partners awaited reimbursement from CERA,” said Kate Luckert Schmid, vice president of program at the Community Foundation.

This partnership made it possible for United Way to get the CERA program up and running, including hiring caseworkers to process applications and allowing local partner agencies to begin facilitating meetings with case managers, tenants and landlords.

Those who fell behind on rent or utilities during the pandemic can view eligibility requirements and apply online at KentRentHelp.org or by calling 877-ERA-Kent.

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