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Federal Pandemic Rental Assistance Available

SEIU International has put together the following information concerning financial assistance that is available to renters.

Many of our members could benefit from rental assistance. The Treasury Department’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program was created to help renters cover their housing-related costs and remain housed during the pandemic. These programs have distributed more than 1.4 million payments to households, totaling more than $7.7 billion to support the housing stability of vulnerable renters. The eligibility requirements, and how money is distributed, varies across states and localities. It can be difficult to navigate, so SEIU International’s policy team has created the information sheet below with links, resources, and guides for ERA.

The rental aid is distributed through your state and local governments. ERA programs work in different ways, depending on how each state or local government establishes its program. Apply today! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I eligible for emergency rental assistance?

To be eligible for help covering your rent, you must have an agreement to pay rent for your home or mobile home lot. You don’t necessarily need to have a signed lease, and your home could be an apartment, house, mobile home, or other place.

These three statements also need to be true:

  1. At least one member of your household has:
  • Qualified for unemployment or should qualify
  • Lost income
  • Owed large expenses, OR
  • Had other financial hardships
  1. Your household income is below a certain amount, based on where you live
  2. At least one member of your household is experiencing housing instability, which means they are at risk of becoming homeless or would have trouble finding a stable place to live

For details, see the rental assistance program for your state or local area.

What does emergency rental assistance cover?

The federal ERA program allows local programs to cover rent, utilities, and home energy costs. This includes electricity, gas, fuel oil, water and sewer, and trash removal. If your landlord normally pays for utilities or home energy costs, these are counted as part of your rent.

Rental assistance may also cover:

  • Reasonable late fees (if not included in your rental or utility debt)
  • Internet service to your home
  • Moving expenses and other rental-related fees (such as security deposits, application fees, or screening fees) for families who have to move
  • Hotel or motel bills (if you had to move out of your home and you don’t have a permanent home elsewhere)

How much financial help can I get?

The federal ERA Program allows local programs to receive up to 18 months of help with rent, including overdue rent, back to March 13, 2020, if the money is available.

If you have overdue rent, the money must go toward rent that you owe, first. Local programs may be able to help with future rent. In addition, you may get help with your future rent payments, up to 3 months at a time. But this depends on your local program.

How do I apply for emergency rental assistance? 

You apply through your state or local emergency rental assistance program. Each program has some flexibility in how they set up policies and procedures to suit the needs of their local community. For example, in some areas, you can apply for rental assistance yourself. In other areas, landlords need to submit an application first. Visit cfpb.gov/govrent to find programs in your area. It’s preferred that applicants apply through their localities before applying to the statewide program. If you cannot find any program in your area, call 2-1-1 or your local housing authority for assistance.

How can I show that I am eligible?

Eligibility is based on a renter household’s financial situation and housing needs.

When you apply for emergency rental help, you will be asked to show that your income is eligible and that you’re experiencing housing instability

Local programs have different requirements. They may ask you for a written statement or they can ask you to show your income with other documents (for example, unemployment benefits documents, pay stubs, tax documents, a statement from an employer, etc.). Local programs can rely on an applicant’s written self-attestation without further documentation. You can find examples of self-attestation forms here.

When should I apply?

Apply for emergency rental assistance as soon as possible because it may take time to get that money to you. In many states, including California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York and Oregon, you are protected from being evicted while your application is being processed.

Emergency rental assistance programs must prohibit the eviction of renters for nonpayment in months for which they receive emergency rental assistance. Landlords who accept direct payments of future rent are not allowed to evict you for not paying rent during the period covered by the rental assistance. When programs make direct payments to landlords to cover back rent, federal guidance strongly encourages them to prohibit eviction for 30 to 90 days after the period covered by rental assistance.

How long will it take to receive emergency rental assistance?

Once you’ve applied for rental assistance, it can take weeks or months for your application to be processed. Housing advocates advise tenants to be patient but to check in periodically, as they might find out they’re missing a document or need something else to move the application along.

 

Resources: 

Treasury Department’s FAQs

Emergency Rental Assistance Fact Sheet (May, 2021)

Emergency Rental Assistance Fact Sheet (June, 2021)

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Questions and Answers

State Emergency Rental Assistance Portal: Michigan

(You will find a complete list of state and local programs available here: cfpb.gov/govrent)

 

 

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