FILE - Apartment complex

(The Center Square) – The state of Kansas has launched a new program designed to help individuals and families financially impacted by COVID-19 pay rent, utility and internet bills.

The Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance (KERA) program is being run by the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation (KHRC).

“Keeping Kansans in their homes and businesses – and ensuring they have access to the high-speed internet needed for telehealth, telework, and virtual school – has been a top priority for my administration since day one.” Gov. Laura Kelly said in a news release. “This program will be critical in ensuring Kansans can stay secure in their homes, stay warm, and maintain access to the internet.”

Eligible residents can apply for up to 12 months of rental assistance as well as past due utility and internet bills, "including electric, gas, water, sewer, trash removal, and home energy services," the news release said.

The new release from the governor's office did not specify how much the new program would cost or how it would be funded, but last year a similar program, called the Kansas Eviction Prevention Program (KEPP), provided nearly $20 million in rental assistance initiative to Kansans financially impacted by COVID, serving more than 21,000 residents.

“Home has always been a place of shelter, but during the pandemic it’s become so much more,” Ryan Vincent, KHRC’s executive director, said in a statement. “The outpouring of interest we saw in the KEPP program demonstrated the tremendous need COVID has created across our state.”

To learn more and apply for KERA assistance, visit the KHRC website.