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Rental, mortgage aid available at community event

Valley Opportunity Council will hold a rental assistance info  and signup event at the  Park Square Pavilion Oct. 13, 2 to 8 p.m.

WESTFIELD — Jessica King of the Valley Opportunity Council and her team will be set up at Park Square Pavilion 2-8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13, for a fun, family-friendly event that will offer services to people in need.

King, who is managing the Community Development Block Grant for the city of Westfield for help with rental and mortgage assistance, said she wants to get out into the community, because the city has been awarded money that she wants people to know about.

King said she’s been trying the past couple of months to reach people who have been impacted financially by COVID-19, and may have gotten behind in their rent or mortgages.

The program will pay for one month past-due rent, and works with landlords to pay two months going forward, a total of three months, giving tenants and clients with mortgages a little time to get back on their feet and benefit from this program awarded to Westfield.

King said at the pavilion they will be able to give one-the-spot approval for residents who bring a valid ID and proof of income who qualify for the assistance.

Community Development Director Peter J. Miller, who works closely with King and Valley Opportunity Council, said the city was awarded $253,000, and has spent about $80,000 to date.

Miller said there still is time to spend the funds, but the challenge is to demonstrate that the reason someone needs the rental assistance is due to a job loss or health challenge related to COVID-19.

“The further we get from it, the more difficult it will be to demonstrate the COVID impact,” Miller said. “I would urge people to take advantage of it now and use it, because it’s there for a specific purpose,” he added.

Miller said so far, the program has helped 28 families, most of them with rental assistance. He said he doesn’t have eviction numbers for renters, but mortgage foreclosures are currently below 2018-2019 numbers at 11, adding that the pandemic has not seemed to have had a major impact on foreclosures.

“It’s still a concern, and we’ll continue to watch the numbers, but we see the major need in the rental population,” Miller said.

At the pavilion on Oct. 13, residents will also be able to get fuel assistance information and referrals. The Valley Opportunity Council also manages the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for Westfield.

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