In-person assistance is available at the Taos Library every Tuesday during the month of May.
May 4, 1pm-4pm; May 11, 9am-noon; May 18, 1pm-4pm; May 25, 9am-noon
Appointments preferred, but walk-ins are welcome.
Contact Youth Heartline email@example.com
or call 575-999-5748 to schedule an appointment.
In November 2020, the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority began accepting applications for rental and mortgage assistance to help those in need due to the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The window to apply for assistance was only opened for 10 days. But when the MFA reopened the application process a month later, local volunteers in Taos stepped up to answer questions and offer assistance to those seeking help.
“It was difficult, because we had to do everything by email — no places were open,” said Bill Waugh, the Taos Elder Benevolent Services director at the Taos Lions Club. “Our activity was to send the application forms, the documents that they would need. And we started then to have tutorial webinar workshops.”
The Taos Lions Club and the child services nonprofit Youth Heartline have helped around 50 families navigate the 14-page application process over the last five months.
“Our goal is to meet people where they’re at in the process. So, not like a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all type of situation,” said Feliz Medina, the Community Programs Coordinator at Youth Heartline.
The MFA’s COVID-19 Housing Cost Assistance Program provides emergency housing grants to households and residents of tribal lands experiencing financial hardship. The federally funded grant — up to $1,500 per month for up to three consecutive months — can be applied to either past or present payments due. The MFA will make payments directly to landlords, mortgage or loan servicers. The assistance does not have to be repaid.
“I really just talk to them and see where they’re at — if they’re able to fill out the application online, and just need a little bit of support, or if they need a lot more hand-holding — making copies, getting the supporting documentation they need, getting the application filled out and then getting it in the mail,” said Medina, 38.
Waugh and Medina are distributing flyers at food banks and through the school lunch programs in order to get the word out about the MFA assistance. They are also running ads in the Taos News. A number of local businesses, nonprofits and institutions are helping support the advertising and the printed flyers.
The MFA recently announced that they are ending their rental assistance on April 15, and concentrating their support for mortgages only. The New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration will assist those in need of help paying rent and utilities, beginning in May.
The DFA Emergency Rental Assistance Program will provide grants in 3-month increments for up to 15 months. The federally funded payments will be made directly to landlords, with a priority towards paying past-due rent bills. Utility assistance, for electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash removal, fuel oil, wood and pellets, would also be capped at 15 months and would be paid directly to the utility provider.
Waugh and Medina are now looking for a venue where they can better assist those seeking financial relief, because the online webinars and email aren’t effective enough.
“It looks like two places that would be possibly available — one would be Kit Carson’s boardroom with multiple computers and scanners. And the other would be the Library,” said Waugh, 92. “I just talked to the city, and the city is talking with the Library. And they’re figuring how they’re going to do it — when and how and proper distancing and masks.”
“I feel people are grateful for the help, and to know what’s out there. And also for the help to figure out the process, because it is an arduous process with all of the documentation that’s required,” said Medina.
“It can be really overwhelming, especially in a pandemic,” she said. “People are already completely overwhelmed with the stresses of life. So to have somebody who’s already gone through all of that information, and can specify to you, ‘This is what you need.’ People have definitely been grateful for that.”
NOTE: Beginning Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 5 p.m. MDT until Friday, April 16, 2021 at 12 p.m. MDT, the MFA COVID-19 Housing Cost Assistance Program application will be closed for planned maintenance.