Financial help is available for residents struggling to pay recent rent increases resulting from Gresham’s new $7.50 a month fee for public safety and parks.

Human Solutions has teamed up with the city of Gresham to offer aid through a rental assistance program designed to help low-income families and individuals living in Gresham pay the fee.

Starting Feb. 1, the city adopted a $7.50-a-month utility fee to raise enough money to prevent more cuts to police, fire and park services. Since most property owners are passing the fee onto tenants in the form of higher rent, the city set aside about $25,000 for assistance to low-income families and partnered with Human Solutions to allocate the money to residents.

Qualified applicants can receive a one-time rent assistance payment of up to $90.

Families that have applied for assistance are extremely grateful for the help, said Jean DeMaster, Human Solutions’ executive director. “They say it’s really making a difference in paying bills,” she said. “They don’t have enough money for rent, food and utilities. In many cases, we also give them assistance for their utilities bills.”

She expects interest in the rental fee assistance program to increase over time as more people see that their rent is going up when their leases expire.

The new fee went into effect in February and applied to all households and businesses in Gresham. A new one-time-only yearly surcharge on business licenses also took effect in February and costs businesses $2 per employee with the first 50 employees being exempt.

Together, the fee and surcharge will raise $3.5 million for public safety and park services before the temporary fee expires June 30, 2014. By then, residents will have voted in May 2014 on a five-year levy to replace the fee and surcharge.

To qualify for rental fee assistance, residents must live in multi-family housing, such as an apartment, and have documentation that their rents went up as of Feb. 1. They also must not receive a utility bill from the city of Gresham, and household income must be below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

Residents can apply for aid at the Human Solutions Rockwood Office, 124 N.E. 181st Ave., Suite 109, between 3 and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by appointment. Human Solutions can be reached at 503-548-0200.

Applicants must provide income verification for the last 30 days, proof from a landlord of a rent increase of at least $7.50 a month, picture identification or another form of identification for each adult in the household (to avoid duplicate aid) and a signed copy of the rental agreement.

— Mara Stine

Contract Publishing

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