The sign at The ARCHES Project. (Anthony McGuire/Special to Salem Reporter)

Marion County residents struggling to pay rent because of economic hardships brought on by COVID-19 can soon get a leg up from the area’s poverty assistance agency.

The Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency is giving away more than $2 million in rental and utility assistance to low-income Marion and Polk county residents that have been affected by the pandemic.

In April, state lawmakers approved $8.5 million for rental assistance to be distributed by community action agencies across the state.

Salem’s agency is making $1.5 million available locally in collaboration with Polk County Family and Community Outreach, Polk County Development Corporation, the Independence Office of the Department of Human Services, Love, Inc in Woodburn and Sheltering Silverton.

To schedule an appointment, call the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency at 503-585-6232.

The money is meant to address a backlog of rent payments and can be used to cover rent in April, May and future payments.  

Jimmy Jones, executive director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, said his agency expects to help around 600 households with rental assistance.

Applicants need to prove they’ve been impacted by the coronavirus, either through lost income or illness, and must be making 50% of the median income or below.

In Salem, singles making less than $24,300 qualify. A three-person household making less than $31,250 would also qualify.

Those whose applications are accepted will see money go directly to their landlords.

Low-income families who have been impacted by the coronavirus can also apply to get money to help pay energy bills thanks to $540,000 from Oregon Housing and Community Services.

Jones said those funds will allow his agency to help an additional 1,350 households pay their electric bills.

To be eligible for energy bill assistance, household members must be making at or below 60% of median income a month before their appointment.

A two-person household in Salem would need to make under $33,360 to qualify. Appointments are first-come, first-served.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.