HAVERHILL — Two dozen Haverhill families and residents at risk of being evicted from their homes have received money to help pay their rent and utility bills, city officials said.

The officials said more residents can get help as the pandemic continues to cause financial problems to the public.

The city has used a new program administered by Community Development Department to give almost $50,000 to the two dozen struggling families and individuals. Mayor James Fiorentini said the emergency rental assistance program recently launched by the city is designed to help people who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program is funded with about $400,000 from a variety of sources, including the federal CARES Act, local community development block grant funds and federal HOME funds given to communities to help address housing needs.

"From the beginning of the pandemic and crashing of the economy, I have been worried about our most vulnerable residents falling behind in their rent," Fiorentini said. "We want to avoid an eviction crisis and we are here to help. I want anyone who is at risk for being evicted, especially families, to contact us and see if they qualify for this program."

Under the program, rental assistance is provided to qualified applicants for up to 90 days, not to exceed a total of $2,100. As much as $800 is available for utility bills.

Monthly payments from the fund are determined on a case-by-case basis and all payments made on behalf of the applicant are paid directly to the landlord.

The mayor said the program will continue until it runs out of money or the city finds another funding source to replenish it.

Rental Assistance Program Coordinator Aubrie Campbell said before applying for money from the program, applicants must demonstrate that they have asked their landlords to reduce rental payments.

"In order to maximize public resources, applicants must demonstrate that they have tried to get their landlords to contribute by offering rent reductions," Campbell said.

Information about eligibility requirements and applications are available from Campbell at 978-374-2344 or by visiting cityofhaverhill.com/departments/community_development_block_grant.php.

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