Low-income Gresham residents have applied for only about $1,000 in financial help from $35,000 set aside to help offset higher rents due to the city’s new $7.50-a-month fee for public safety and parks.

Earlier this year, Gresham partnered with Human Solutions to designate $25,000 in rental assistance to low-income residents who might be hit hardest by the new fee, which began appearing on utility bills in February. It was enacted to prevent cuts to police, fire and park services.

Since then, a new fiscal year began in July, allocating another $10,000 to the fund.

But few people seem to know that help is available, said Jill Weir, director of programs for Human Solutions. So far, residents have applied for and been awarded just $1,080 from the fund, she said.

“It would be great to get the money into the hands of those who need it,” Weir said.

The new fee went into effect in February and applies to all households, including apartment residents, as well as 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 are expected to 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.

Knowing that rental housing likely would pass the fee onto low-income families by raising rents, the city set aside money to assist low-income families and teamed up with Human Solutions to allocate those funds to residents.

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

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.

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