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Washington County is teaming up with the social services agency Blueprints to help county renters who have had trouble paying their rent or utility bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blueprints will be coordinating the $7 million program and the county will be funding it, using federal dollars. It’s divided into two parts, with one serving renters whose annual incomes are at or below 50% of the area median income. For a family of four, that’s $41,500. The other will serve renters with annual incomes at or below 80% of the area median income. For a family of four, that would be $66,400.

According to Darlene Bigler, the CEO of Blueprints, “Rental and utility assistance programs of this magnitude are a first for Blueprints and the county of Washington, but so is the extreme need, brought on by the pandemic, related to job loss and reduction in hours for workers in our community.”

In order to be eligible, a household’s decrease in income and inability to pay utilities or rent would have to be directly tied to the pandemic. An online application is expected to be on the Blueprints website, myblueprints.org, by next Monday. Residents without access to computers can contact Blueprints, and a staff member can assist them in completing an application over the phone or in person.

Additional documentation is also required, and residents will be able to either mail it or drop it off at Blueprints’ office, or upload the documents through the online platform.

Bigler cautioned the response “may not be immediate,” since a large number of applicants is anticipated.

Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan said, “Blueprints has a proven track record of helping residents access funding programs like this, ensuring swift delivery of relief.”

Staff Writer

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. He serves as editorial page editor, and has covered the arts and entertainment and worked as a municipal beat reporter.

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