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Non-Profit Provides Rent & Utility Assistance in Response to COVID-19

In the past 6 months, Huntsville-based non-profit Neighborhood Concepts, Inc. (NCI) has provided over $ 52,000 in rent and utility assistance to low-to-moderate income families and seniors facing hardships due to COVID-19.  Recognizing that residents of its communities would be hardest hit by the pandemic, NCI began work in late March to identify funding to provide much needed assistance and was overwhelmed by the support of the local community foundation and the philanthropic arm of several financial institutions.  To date, NCI has received over $ 67,000 to support these efforts from BBVA Compass, the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville, Enterprise Communities, Truist Foundation and Wells Fargo.  In addition to offering rent and utility assistance, NCI has been able to utilize some of the funding to purchase personal protection equipment or PPE for the families and seniors in their communities. 

A survey conducted by The Pew Research Center in April found that 52% of lower-income households reported a loss of employment or income due to the coronavirus outbreak.  “The shut-down earlier this year created significant hardship for our residents, many of whom work in the retail and restaurant industries where the greatest impact of the shutdown was felt.  Although we are seeing our economy open back up, these businesses are still operating below capacity which translates to staffing cuts and reduced hours for their employees,” said Mary Ellen Judah, Executive Director of NCI.  To date, NCI has assisted 52 households, of which 21 were female head of household, with rent and utilities at an average cost of approximately $585 per household per month.  Although 31% of those assisted had pre-COVID incomes below the poverty line; the remaining households assisted had incomes ranging from $25,000 to $45,000 per year, further demonstrating that moderate income households are also struggling to weather the current storm. 

Although local and federal eviction moratoriums have limited the number of families displaced, Judah believes that the moratoriums are “just kicking the can down the road as low-to-moderate income families who often live paycheck to paycheck will be unable to catch up, if and when they return to full employment.”  The rent and utility assistance provided by NCI will lessen the financial burden on these households, hopefully preventing evictions when the moratoriums are lifted while also mitigating some of the stress these families are currently facing.  In a recent survey conducted by NCI, 47% of respondents who received assistance said they are concerned about their future and 39% indicated a higher level of anxiety as a result of the pandemic.  “The fall-out from COVID has been tremendous and an end doesn’t appear to be in sight.  The number needing assistance each month has dropped, but not significantly.  We helped 25 families in May, but six months later, we still had 17 families in October who needed some help with their rent and utilities,” said Judah. 

Neighborhood Concepts, Inc. is a Huntsville non-profit with a 30-year history of strengthening communities through the development of affordable housing and advancement of economic opportunity for underserved populations and in underserved communities.  NCI currently owns over 1,000 units of affordable housing in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.