With only days to go to an application deadline, the City of Buffalo is putting on a full-court press to get tenants and homeowners to apply for federal grants to keep them from being evicted or being foreclosed on.
Erie County has a $10 million program to help with those hard-hit economically by COVID-19, but applications have been slow. With the Nov. 15 deadline approaching, Buffalo will have people going door to door in several languages to tell residents the program exists and where to get information on how to apply.
Mayor Byron Brown said it is especially important for people of color who have been hit hard by the virus.
"Because of pre-existing health conditions and not the same access to health insurance or health resources, we're going to see people of color disproportionately affected by evictions and foreclosures," Brown said.
Using cash from the federal CARES Act, the program will pay for up to five months of past-due rent or mortgage payments. For renters who have their application accepted, the check will go directly to the landlord.
"There's some difficulty with the timing, because many people have not have been paying and they might not necessarily understand many of the messages that are out there about foreclosure and eviction because there has been a pause," said City Economic development Commissioner Brendan Mehaffy. "But it is a pause. It is not an erasure in any way, shape or form of those debts that are out there."
The focus of the effort will be in low-income areas across the city that have been very hard hit by the economic effect of the pandemic. Pastor and Masten Common Councilmember Ulysees Wingo said the Baptist Ministers Conference is helping.
"Amelioriate the negative effects of this crisis on our community," Wingo said. "So we're going to do everything we can to ensure that all of the churches in the City of Buffalo and in Western New York, so that we can tap out all of the funds that we have available to the folks who are desperately in need."