CHAMPAIGN — When COVID-19 hit in the spring and hospitals hardly had enough masks, Royse & Brinkmeyer Apartments saw an opportunity.
With nearly 20 percent of its tenants in the service industry and potentially facing job reductions, they were offered $10 of rent credit for every mask they made.
“We funded the materials. We just needed to buy the labor from them,” CEO Collin Carlier said. “We had some residents that earned hundreds of dollars in rent credits.”
“We had somebody that made 150,” director of property management Stephanie Funkhouser said.
Eventually, they put a limit on how much rent credit could be earned, but “when we did that, it didn’t matter. They still wanted to give us as many as they could,” she said.
All told, more than 1,000 masks were made and donated to CU at Home, Champaign-Urbana Public Health District and Carle Foundation Hospital.
“There were certainly people that were concerned with their ability to pay rent, but … the generosity is always there, and I think that there was a lot of that,” Funkhouser said.
Royse & Brinkmeyer also waived late fees for residents, allowed residents to fall behind on rent and paid the online processing fees to discourage paying rent in person.
“We had a lot of people that came in and paid by check,” Funkhouser said. Taking on the online fees “gave them a safe way of paying without having to come in to the office.”
During the stay-at-home order, Royse & Brinkmeyer also partnered with Culinary Bliss catering to provide a couple meals to elderly and high-risk residents.
“It allowed them to have something and not have to go out and buy things,” Funkhouser said.
They also launched a service for residents call R+B@Home, offering grocery pick-up, laundry service, cleaning and other services.
It was developed as an idea to help older residents avoid nursing homes but launched early during the pandemic to help residents who wanted or needed to stay at home.
“We actually had some people that very quickly took it up and took us up on it for that specific reason, not necessarily elderly but more at risk,” Funkhouser said.
Carlier said that as a landlord, the state eviction moratorium hasn’t been an issue.
“We’ve had some people that their balances have ballooned, and then we work with them,” he said. “But even now today, most people are in recovery or have recovered from that.”