A new online hub shows how Knoxville-area residents are accessing COVID-19 pandemic recovery funds to pay for rent and utilities and maintain their housing.
The Housing Assistance Dashboard is a collaboration between City of Knoxville, East Tennessee 211, Knoxville Utilities Board, and the Knoxville Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC). It displays data regarding when and from where (by ZIP code) residents are requesting and receiving rent and utilities relief through available programs. Programs include the City’s COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program funded by the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act and KUB’s CURE (COVID Utility Relief Effort) Program to help residents pay their utility bills.
Renter households still in need of housing assistance can apply through the Knox Housing Assistance Program (KnoxHousingAssistance.org), which is currently funded with $19 million from the U.S. Treasury and aims to ultimately distribute up to $44 million.
In the summer of 2020, as COVID-19 pandemic recovery funds became available to residents experiencing job loss and financial difficulties related to the pandemic, City officials jumped on the opportunity to track and monitor the flow of assistance to gauge the general state of housing stability in the city.
“We made tracking housing assistance our priority,” says Carter Hall, Policy and Business Innovation lead for the City of Knoxville. “From start to finish, it was a collaborative process that empowers residents to really see the work that Knoxville organizations have been doing. We also wanted to make it as easy as possible for everyone to have access to analysis tools and measurements.”
The City 311/211 Center for Service Innovation receives calls from residents seeking assistance with rent, utilities, shelter and other social services.
Knoxville Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC), along with Knoxville Leadership Foundation and Homesource east tennessee, provided assistance to renters and homeowners through the program, which ended June 30, 2021.
Renters are encouraged to seek assistance with their rent and utility costs through KnoxHousingAssistance.org.
KUB worked to connect its residential and business customers with financial assistance through the COVID Utility Relief Effort (CURE) Program in partnership with TVA and CAC. Several additional community partners also provided utility bill assistance to residents.
Risk of eviction can be a precursor to homelessness, especially when other affordable housing is rare or unavailable. While not every detainer warrant means an eviction happened, it does represent a risk of eviction.
“The information provided in the dashboard will help CAC target future programming and services,” says CAC’s Social Services Director Misty Goodwin.
“Things that get measured get better,” says 311 Center for Service Innovation Director Russ Jensen. “City departments and community agencies that report to the dashboard, as well as others involved in housing-related programs, will be able to see where resources are going and where the gaps exist that they can address.”
“KUB is glad to join this partnership to provide information on how community agencies are meeting the needs of Knoxville citizens,” says Tiffany Martin, Vice President and Chief Customer Officer for Knoxville Utilities Board. “We appreciate collaborating with the many agencies that provide aid to those in need. The dashboard will allow agencies and community members to see those areas that require outreach to ensure residents are receiving the help they need.”
“This project aligns with the City’s goals of transparency and increasing the open data available to residents,” adds Hall. View other open data resources at KnoxvilleTN.gov/opendata.