pittsfield, MA – About 500 Berkshire County households have used the state’s emergency assistance program since the pandemic began. But starting January 1, there are many changes coming that could result in fewer people getting the important benefits.
The total household limit is reduced from $10,000 to $7,000. Families will have to reapply after three months to continue receiving benefits, and most renters will now be required to prove they have lost payment to qualify for cash assistance.
The Baker Polito administration is making changes to try to expand the program’s funds to fund it through June 2022 and funnel money to families most at risk.
Without additional funds from the US Bailout Act, the changes are necessary, said Berkshire Housing Development Corporation President and CEO, Elaine Peltier.
“I think they are in a rather difficult position,” Peltier said. “If the ARPA money is used for this, we obviously would have a huge injection into this program and they might change the guidance, but I think it makes a lot of sense.”
There will also be a new program to help homeowners who have missed mortgage payments due to financial problems caused by the pandemic, and make up up to 150% of their area’s median income.
This would be a huge help to many in the region, Peltier said.
“At least 75 to 80% of the people who live in Berkshire live in homes they own, so I think it would be great to have a program that would be available to these residents,” Peltier said.
Anyone interested in the New Homeowners Program should contact the Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, which will help guide people through the application process once they begin in the new year.