NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana is adding utility payment assistance to a state-run, federally funded program established to help renters and landlords affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor's office announced Friday that people facing financial problems because of the pandemic will be able to apply for help to pay for electric, gas, fuel oil, water, sewerage and trash services through the state's rental assistance program. The program covers most of the state. However, seven parishes — Caddo, Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Lafayette, Orleans and St. Tammany — have their own locally administered rental assistance programs.

Availability and administration of utility assistance varies in those parishes.

In a press release from the Office of the Governor, Edwards said:

As we approach the summer months, we thought it was critically important to expand the program to provide assistance to Louisianans not only struggling with their rent but also struggling to pay their utilities. Despite Louisiana’s great strides in vaccination efforts, many people still need help. Just like we encourage all Louisianans to get vaccinated, I strongly urge all renters and landlords struggling due to the financial impacts of COVID-19 to seek assistance through this program.”

The press release went on to say that Louisiana renters may be eligible for assistance from the state-administered program if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Renter resides in a rental unit in one of 57 parishes covered by state-administered program.
  • At least one individual in the household qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to COVID-19.
  • Renter has received a past-due rent notice, a past-due utility notice, an eviction notice or is experiencing housing instability.
  • Renter’s total household income is at or below 80 percent of the area median income.

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