A Complete Guide To The Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Various reasons can limit your capacity to pay rent and leave you with no choice but to seek emergency rental assistance. Lower levels of income, other loan payments, or medical emergencies that you might be facing can create such difficult situations. A lot of people find themselves helpless while confronting such a challenge.

Emergency Rental Assistance Program
Emergency Rental Assistance Program

People have fear of losing their residences which can cause them to move away from their places of work, schools, colleges, etc. Moreover, landlords even evict some tenants or they have to leave the house having no other choice. No one desires to be evicted or homeless, right? But some unforeseen contingencies or events like that of the current pandemic of Covid-19 can compel you to do that. 

The covid-19 pandemic has impacted all of us widely and severely. Even the strongest of the world economies and medical systems have failed to curb the consequences of the pandemic.

When economies suffer, their people also suffer. The economic inactivity for several months in many countries has caused people around the world to lose their jobs and compelled others to settle for a lot less amount of payment than they used to receive.

However, though the income levels of people have gone down, the need for consumption or expenses has not. People still need to do some of the mandatory expenses like paying rent, loans, medical costs, bills, transportation, etc. However, due to the loss of livelihood, they have become incapable of paying all the rents. This has led to many people becoming homeless or being at risk of it. 

However, you can now avoid facing such complex situations since many governments have come up with their own emergency rental assistance programs. Along with governments, many Non-profit organizations and charities are working to offer support to such tenants. However, the program does not support all the tenants. Only the tenants who are actually struggling to make a living can benefit from this program.

Even if you are facing any short-term crisis that is limiting your ability to pay your rent, these organizations will help you. Nevertheless, the program gives preference to families with children who have low levels of income, people who are disabled or are senior citizens. These people are considered more needy and vulnerable than others. Thus, if any of these categories apply to you, your chances of receiving aid will increase. 

The emergency rental assistance program was introduced to prevent people and families from becoming homeless. The government can provide you assistance for up to one year or more if needed. Whereas, the assistance offered by Non-Profit Organizations intends to support families to overcome the short-term crisis. The organizations mostly have limited funds available to them.

They do not offer support for a long time but instead, aim to help people in raising their income level and become more self-sufficient. Therefore, the assistance provided by organizations is only for the short term and mostly for one time only. That being said, you also need to convince the authorities that you will make efforts to raise your income levels to avoid such complexities in the future. 

So, if you are facing homelessness or are at the risk of eviction due to the direct and indirect effects of the pandemic, you can directly approach the government and government organizations. Besides the government, many Non-Profit organizations, charities, and churches also offer help to tenants.

So, you can approach any of these options if you are facing difficulty. In addition to rental assistance, many organizations also offer other essential services through their different programs. Now, let us check the details of the emergency rental assistance program offered by different sources. 

Emergency Rental Assistance Program Of The US

As said above, most of these programs aim at solving the short-term crisis of applicants by helping them with the payment of rent. Since the current pandemic has left many people unemployed and miserable, governments across the globe have launched various relief programs.

The emergency rent aid is one of them. Likewise, the US government has also started an emergency rental assistance program to help the people affected by the current pandemic of Covid -19. 

The US government has announced $25 billion for this program to prevent the homelessness that may be caused by the pandemic.

Under this program, the federal government will grant aids to the state and local governments. The households in the need can directly approach their state or local governments for support.

States are allowed to use 10% of the received grant for administrative use and the remaining 90% must be used for the assistance.

Now, let us take a look at the eligibility criteria for the program.  Also, it is important to note that government assists a household and not a single person. Thus, the eligibility criteria are in reference to all the people in a “Household” and not a single person.

Eligibility Criteria For Emergency Rental Assistance Program

  1. At least one of the people from the household must qualify as unemployed. Secondly, you must be able to prove either a noticeable reduction in the income of the household or a significant rise in the cost owing to the current pandemic situation.
  2. You must be able to prove that you are at risk of losing your place of residence and become homeless or have become homeless.
  3. You should be able to show a rent obligation on you.
  4. Your total household income must be 80% or below the median of your area.

These are the criteria laid down by the US Department of the Treasury. To be eligible for the program, you must fulfill all these conditions. In case you do not qualify for any of these or have submitted any fallacious information, your application can be rejected.

Also, simply qualifying for the criteria does not ensure you will receive the assistance. The government has the responsibility to help the poorest of the poor on a priority basis. Thus, those who need help at an alarming level will be assisted first. Others having relatively better conditions may receive the assistance later.

While granting the assistance, the government will give priority to the household of a family whose total income is 50% of the median of that area. Also, if a member of a household has been unemployed for ninety days or more, it will be given priority over other households. 

While stating the income of the household, you can declare either the annual income of the household for the current financial year or the monthly income at the time of the application. If you are submitting monthly income, you will have to revise it every three months.

Also, the family eligible for the emergency rental assistance program must ensure that the benefits received from the program are not duplicative of any other assistance scheme of the federal government. If found guilty, the government may reject your application.

Who Can Apply And How To Apply?

Any household that fulfills the eligibility criteria can apply for the program. Besides, the landlord of the eligible household can also apply on behalf of the tenants. However, the tenants and landlord, both, cannot apply for the same household. Thus, if the landlord is applying for the household, the tenants must co-sign the application for it to proceed.

If the household is eligible, authorities will transfer the amount of eligible assistance directly to the account of the landlord or the utility service provider. In case the landlord does not want to be involved in the process, the state can transfer the amount to the tenants to make rental payments.

To apply, you must first find out the grantees eligible in your state and apply through your state or local governments. If eligible, you can receive emergency rental assistance from the government for up to twelve months. The assistance will be available to you until 31st December 2021.

In case the grantee deems that a household needs more assistance to overcome and achieve stability, you may receive assistance for a further few months. The period of the assistance can be extended to up to three months. Since you will be receiving the amount as aid or assistance, it won’t be taxable to your household.

What Are The Eligible Uses Of The Assistance?

The government provides assistance to prevent any potential homelessness that may arise due to the pandemic. The emergency rental assistance can be used to make payments for other household expenses caused by the covid-19 pandemic besides the rent. You can use the assistance provided for the following purposes:

  • Rent and rent arrears
  • Utilities and home energy costs and arrears if any.
  • Household costs incurred due to the pandemic.

You can use the amount to pay for any of these. However, priority will be given to the payment of rent arrears, since they can lead to immediate homelessness of the tenants. If needed, the government will assist you immediately with the payment of rent arrears and the remaining amount can be transferred later. The government will aim at reducing the rent arrears on a priority basis. Once the rent arrears are reduced, future assistance may be given only for the next 3 months. The period of assistance will depend on the financial status of the applicant. If the household needs more assistance after the completion of the stipulated period, the applicant may again apply for the assistance. 

That is all about the US government’s rental assistance program. If you don’t find yourself eligible for this program you may need other options. So, what are they? Yes, the NPOs! 

Emergency Rental Assistance from NPOs

Emergency Rental Assistance from NPOs
Emergency Rental Assistance from NPOs

If you are struggling with your household rentals, the government is not your only option. Many Non-Profit organizations are working to help tenants and prevent their possible eviction. However, the emergency rental assistance programs run by NPOs can be different from the government programs in structure and also in criteria.

NPOs can help you with the payment of rent, rent arrears, security deposits, and other household expenses. These organizations assist tenants with payment of rent and rent arrears to prevent them from eviction. The organizations also help with security deposits that can help homeless families in finding a new and affordable home. 

Since the organizations have limited funding, they can help only a limited number of applicants. Thus, only the households that have very low-income levels or belong to some of the most vulnerable groups are likely to get assistance from these organizations. Some of the organizations not only provide monetary assistance to tenants but also help them with the entire process. 

Here’s a list of some of the NPOs that can help you with emergency rental assistance:

  • Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities also offer assistance to the tenants. However, assistance is very limited owing to the limited funds and will vary according to the need of different applicants. In order to receive help from catholic charities, you may have to approach the concerned authorities of the local church in your area. Local churches can preside over only a small area and will give priority to the people living in that area. Thus, you should visit the nearest local church. You can then request the authorities to help you with your rental issues. If they find your case eligible, they will help you for a limited time. The amount of the fund may depend on the will of the donors. Some of the local churches also have volunteers who can assist you with other things like transportation or finding a new home etc. 

  • St. Vincent DePaul

To receive emergency rental assistance from Vincent DePaul, you will have to apply or request to the Vincent DePaul itself or other local churches. If they find you eligible, you can get assistance for rent, transportation, utility payment, security deposit, arrears, etc. Considering the limited funds, only a few will be able to get benefits. It assists very low-income or homeless households on a priority basis.

If you are eligible for the assistance, you will get the benefit. However, the payment will directly be transferred to whom it is due. For instance, if you need help with the rent payment, the church will transfer the due amount directly to your landlord. 

Also, since it is a charity program, the church may ask you to pay back when your condition improves significantly. This way you can also help others to overcome such difficulties that they might face. 

  • Salvation Army

The salvation army is one of the renowned charity organizations that is working for the welfare of the people. It offers both rental and deposit assistance to needy tenants. Besides financial assistance, the organization also provides eligible tenants with a case manager. A case manager can help tenants with the procedure and also to figure out what may have caused the eviction of tenants and what can be done next. Besides, the Salvation Army helps their eligible applicants in developing essential skills that will help them earn more income to avoid such difficulties in the future. 

These are some of the options that will prevent you from being homeless. These organizations may have different criteria and processes for applying to the emergency rental assistance program. You must check the official websites of the organizations before applying.

You can approach any of them and if your case is genuine and fits all the criteria for the program, you will receive assistance. However, you must keep in mind that the government or other organizations cannot assist you for a longer duration. So, you must try and find other livelihood means to stand on your own feet. 

Since the pandemic has had a wide-ranging impact, millions of households do become eligible for the assistance programs of at least one of these alternatives. However, some of the people may not become eligible for the program. This may be due to the problems with the application form or because your issues may not fit in the context or the priority criteria of the organizations. The government and organizations will indeed try to help all of the eligible applicants, but the vast number of applications may not allow them to do so in a short time. Here is what you can do in such cases.

What If You Are Not Eligible?

In case, a person is facing a long-term crisis, for instance, if you have been unemployed for a longer duration and not due to the current pandemic and thus, cannot pay the rent, the emergency rental assistance program may not help you. However, in such cases, the NPOs or the government organizations may recommend other suitable programs according to your situation. 

When someone approaches any organization seeking emergency rental assistance, they do make efforts to help you in every possible way. Some of the organizations have special people working to guide the applicant with the whole process. They will assist you in not only filling an application form but also in exploring other possible options. Thus, even if you are not eligible for this program, you may still have hopes for assistance,

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