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SALT LAKE CITY — The last year hit Raoul Feliciano's family particularly hard.
"The pandemic was terrible for me because I lost my job. And then I was saving a little money, so when the money was gone ... I needed help," said Feliciano, a resident of the Guadalupe neighborhood in Salt Lake City.
Within months of losing his job, Feliciano said he got so sick he needed hospital care. He didn't know how he would be able to pay his mortgage. But he found help at a nonprofit in his own neighborhood. NeighborWorks Salt Lake assisted him in securing help available to those who suffered job losses or other hardships during the coronavirus pandemic.
"For me, it was terrible because I have my family. I have my wife. I have four kids. So, I didn't know how to continue to support my family. So my experience was really good, because when I needed more help, the NeighborWorks helped me ... they helped me with my mortgage payment, and I survived with my family and my kids," Feliciano said Wednesday.
He said he was eventually able to get a new job and could resume making his mortgage payments.
Salt Lake City leaders met at the nonprofit to express concern about those in similar situations who face being put out of their homes when the nationwide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures ends this month.
"Housing has been such a crucial component of combating the COVID-19 pandemic. This moratorium, just as the moratorium implemented early on by the state of Utah, has provided an opportunity for affected households to address rent and mortgage arrears, giving them time to catch up on payments and also to access supportive services and resources to help stabilize their income and their housing," Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said.
Although the moratorium ends on July 1, "the expiration of this federal moratorium does not mean, however, that the need for housing support has ended. Far, far from it," she said.
Mendenhall noted that 1 in 5 renters nationally is behind on rent, and 10 million homeowners are behind on their mortgage payments.
"People of color face even greater hardship, and they're more likely to have deferred or missed payments, putting them at greater risk for eviction and foreclosure. In Utah, an estimated 33,700 Utahns are behind on rent," according to the mayor.
But Salt Lake City and the state have rent and mortgage assistance programs in place, she said, urging those who are behind on rent or mortgage payments to not delay seeking resources.
"So many community partners are standing by ready to help," she said.
The city has a pilot mortgage assistance program in place in collaboration with NeighborWorks and the Community Development Corporation of Utah. The program has so far helped 29 families in the city stay in their homes "and we hope to reach many more," Mendenhall said.
Maria Garciaz, NeighborWorks Salt Lake CEO, said her organization saw an uptick in calls for help three months or so into the pandemic.
"And that time it was really restricted to Salt Lake City, but now the state has opened that up, so we're excited about that," Garciaz said, adding that the group has recently received "a lot of calls from West Valley, Taylorsville, throughout Utah."
Those who seek assistance will need to provide documentation that they've lost their job or been sick. After verifying their identity, the program sends money directly to the mortgage lender, Garciaz said.
Tony Milner, policy and program manager with Salt Lake City Housing and Neighborhood Development, expressed gratitude to landlords who worked with tenants to agree on delayed payments and payment plans during the moratorium.
"The best outcome for everyone is for tenants, for homeowners, for landlords, for lenders, are for both parties to become whole with payments. So our message to the public is if you're behind in payments or have received an eviction notice or foreclosure notice, do not wait. Seek services immediately. Keep all the documentation that you've been given or you've received, communicate with your landlord or lender immediately," he said.
Those who live in Salt Lake City can apply for help with their mortgage payments by contacting NeighborWorks or Community Development Corporation of Utah. Those who live in other cities can call 211. Rental assistance, including back rent, can be requested at rentrelief.utah.gov.