All qualified applications for the recent rent and mortgage assistance lottery run by the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. will receive some relief funding, the agency announced this week.
The AHFC launched the housing assistance lottery after receiving $10 million in federal funding through Alaska’s appropriation of money from the CARES Act.
A total of 8,025 applications were submitted, 685 of them from within the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
The average household size of the applicants is 2.74 individuals per household, said AHFC spokeswoman Stacy Barnes.
Applicants who meet qualifications — state residency and a proved income loss due to COVID-19 — will receive up to $1,200 in a one-time payment to put toward either rent payments or a mortgage.
Based on applicants’ self-reporting, their average annual income loss is $21,880, with an average monthly housing payment of principal and interest of $1,417 for homeowners or $1,110 for renters.
AHFC randomized submissions and notified applicants by email Tuesday of their placement. Applicants will next need to provide verification of their loss of income and provide contact information for their mortgage servicer or landlord who will receive payment on the applicants’ behalf. A representative of AHFC will contact applicants to gather the information.
In a Tuesday news release, the corporation warned applications to be wary of scammers who may pose as representatives of the corporation asking for sensitive information. Applicants can verify the legitimacy of a call by confirming their unique alphanumeric number.
Bryan Butcher, Alaska House Finance Corp. CEO, said the lottery exhibited the significant need many Alaskans face.
“From our outreach we heard directly from Alaskans about the difficulty that COVID-19 created in their lives. Some were given almost no notice that their place of employment wasn’t going to be opening the next day and their entire livelihood was suddenly in question. Our Alaska Housing Relief program was designed with those in mind — those who lost hours or were laid off at no fault of their own. We’re getting this money out as quickly as we can so relief can start now,” he said.
The rental help may come at an opportune time for many Alaskans as elements of a legislative bill meant to stave off financial hardships for struggling residents expired Wednesday.
Alaska lawmakers passed Senate Bill 241 before adjourning in March. The bill gave Gov. Mike Dunleavy emergency powers until Nov. 15 and included a number of provisions to allow leniency for Alaskans who couldn’t make rent, mortgage, or vehicle loan payments due to lost income. Certain portions of the legislation were scheduled to sunset at the start to the new fiscal year on July 1, including the moratorium on eviction notes and foreclosures for those who are behind on rent and mortgage payments as well as the repossession of vehicles.
North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill was one of the lawmakers involved in crafting the bill and working through differences between the Senate and House versions of the legislation before final passage in March.
Coghill on Wednesday explained some of the reasoning behind the expirations.
“We weren’t 100% sure on what the CARES Act would allow, and we figured that the economy would get a shot in the arm from the CARES Act and people would be able to stabilize out by July,” he said, acknowledging that may or may not be the case for some Alaskans. “But that was our thinking at the time. It was hard for us to see further into the future.”
One element of the bill that will not expire until later this year is a moratorium on utility shut-offs for those who are late on payments due to COVID-19.
Coghill noted the Legislature was more lenient on the sunset date for this portion but added that an Alaskan who benefits from the delay must demonstrate that COVID-19 specifically was the cause.
“If they are defrauding the system, that won’t work well for them,” Coghill said.
The utility shut-off moratorium is set to expire in November when the governor’s emergency powers are also scheduled to sunset.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.