CLINTON, S.C. (WSPA) — With the cost of food, gas and other items rising drastically, it has become harder for a lot of people to pay their bills.

Many don’t realize that financial aid programs started during the pandemic are still going strong. They offer help with rent, mortgage payments, utilities and even property taxes.

When a Clinton mother came to 7NEWS for help, we wanted to share what we learned about who qualifies and how long those hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance are expected to last.

When Brittany Green Vance became a mother, she swore she would shield her kids from the worry of unpaid utility bills.

“I grew up sometimes with my lights being turned off, and I never wanted my children to go through that,” she said.

So when the lights went out two weeks ago in her Clinton rental home, this mother of four tried to explain to the utility company that there had been a mistake.

“The people came back, I’m thinking they are going to turn my lights back on, [but] they cut my water off,” she said. “I was like, ‘OK, I don’t have lights. I don’t have water. How am I going to feed my kids? How are my daughters going to get their baths and ready for school? How are we going to survive through the night because it gets hot?’” she said.

Vance immediately called the South Carolina Housing Authority because she had applied a month before to a program called SC Stay Plus, which assists with utilities and rent.

Chris Winston, with SC Housing, said the $430 million in Federal COVID-19 relief funds are meant for people who have had a negative financial impact from the pandemic.

To qualify, you also have to have an annual salary of no more than 80% of the average median income in your county. You can look up your AMI here. This chart shows more specific numbers for South Carolinians according to the size of your household.

”In Cherokee County or Union County, that is going to look something like at your household income in the $40,000 – $50,000 range, and again it changes by county and household size,” Watson said. “The larger the household, kind of the bigger more populated county you are in, typically the higher the income limit is going to be for this program.”

SC Stay Plus serves 39 counties. Others, like Spartanburg, Anderson and Greenville counties, have their own COVID-19-related Emergency Rental Assistance.

Clicking on your county in this interactive SC Housing map shows you which programs are available to you.

And it’s not just renters. A new South Carolina “Homeowner Rescue Program” that just began this spring helps with things like mortgage payments, property taxes and utilities for struggling homeowners.

And the median income for that program is higher, 150% of the county average based on household size. So, for a Greenville family of three, this online eligibility calculator shows the cutoff is $115,000.

Vance said she knew she had qualified and was told the check was on the way to Clinton Utilities. But as the day went on, she called 7NEWS for help.

We reached out to Clinton and SC Stay Plus. By later that afternoon, her water and electricity were back on. And with temperatures in the high 80s, she was grateful.

“I would love to thank SC Stay Plus as well as News Channel 7 because if it wasn’t for you all two, I don’t know where I would be,” she said.

”We were happy to make the calls and make sure everybody was aware of the situation and knew that she had been approved and things were being resolved,” Winston said. “We are thrilled that she was able to stay safely in her home.”

About half of the SC Stay Plus program for renters has been used already. But the housing authority said there should be enough funding to last into 2023. The Homeowner Rescue Program has at least $145 million available.