How to Qualify for Rent Assistant During the Pandemic

The $25 Billion Rent Assistance

We are in the last days of January and the national ban on eviction is about to end. If you haven’t already, go and apply for Rent Assistance. This is the second time Congress is authorizing this assistance, the first time being in March when they authorized $20 billion for the program. They are back with a $25 billion budget and the Biden Administration prepared to put in $30 billion more to this program.

Here is a list of what you need to know.

What is it used for?

The assistance is designed to relieve the American people of the burden of rent liability during this pandemic when they have lost their jobs. The amount is applied to either rent that is owed or due, and to utilities that are either owed or due.

How much money will you get?  

The amount you will receive will depend on the state you are in. The assistance will be disseminated to the states and will be allocated by them in the manner they deem fit. Some jurisdictions will give you $6,000 to $10,000.

To serve as a general guide you can get up to 12 months of past-due rent but may receive an additional three months of assistance only if it is necessary to ensure the household remains stably housed and funds are available. At the end of the day, they are subject to the rules set up by your state.

It is estimated that 14 million people are behind on $70 billion of rent. This assistance doesn’t seem to scratch the surface of that estimate. This limited amount can easily run out. That’s why you should go ahead and apply for it as soon as you can.

Who is eligible?

In order for you to qualify, you need to satisfy all these factors:

  • In an attestation, you need to state that you either:
    • Qualify for unemployment benefits, or
    • Has experienced a reduction in household income incurred significant cost or experience other financial hardship directly or indirectly as the result of this pandemic.
  • You need to demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
  • You need to have a household income of 80% or below of your area’s median income
    • The income you use can be the total income from 2020, or if you just lost your job, you can use the monthly income you have now at the time of application.

You are going to recertify this attestation every 3 months once you receive this assistance from the authorities to ensure that you still qualify. As a precaution, they are going to prioritize people who make 50% below your area’s median income or those who are currently on unemployment insurance. This is a measure meant to guarantee that the funds reach the people who need them the most.

How will you get it?

Renters would apply for assistance with entities that state and local grantees select to administer the program. You can start the process by contacting your state’s housing department or local helplines to inquire how you can apply. However, every single state will likely have different rules and nuances, that’s why you need to talk to your accountant about it.

Where will it be credited?

Unlike the other assistance provided by the new stimulus package, this assistance won’t be credited directly to you. It will go directly to your landlord or utility provider. However, if they don’t want to be part of the program, they can credit it to you, and it will be up to you to hand it over to your landlord.

How will the funds be distributed?

The Department of Treasury will distribute it by using the same formula used to distribute Coronavirus Relief Funds.

  • Small states will receive a minimum of $200 million in emergency rental assistance.
  • Localities with populations over 200 thousand people may request to receive their allocation of emergency rental assistance directly.

Is it available now?

There has been a lot of talks about the time it will take for these funds to reach the states’ treasury. While we wait for it, stay updated with us, because when it does arrive, there will be a short window until the funds run out and you want to be the first through it.  

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