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A Servicey Wonkette Guide To Emergency Rental Help
Step One: Live in California since February 2020.
We continue to live in extremely weird times. On Saturday, the federal eviction moratorium expired, leading to days of demands from progressive members of Congress that action be taken to extend it. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri), who knows from homelessness, slept on the steps of the Capitol to call attention to the millions of Americans who risk becoming homeless.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control said it couldn't extend the ban on evictions because the Supreme Court is composed of fuckwits, and had ruled the CDC lacked the authority. But then Tuesday evening, the CDC reversed course, announcing a new, narrower eviction moratorium . Citing the threat of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus, the new moratorium bans evictions through October 3 in "counties experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission levels." Politico notes that the extended moratorium "is expected to affect 80 percent of counties and 90 percent of the U.S. population, according to Democrats familiar with the details."
So now there is at least a partial reprieve for folks facing eviction. But's it's still infuriating that very little of the $45 billion in rent and utility assistance that Congress approved in the last two stimulus bills has actually made it to renters and landlords. At least now there will be a little more time for states to get more of the money to people who need it, and to prevent evictions.
And so, Yr Wonkette would like to offer some resources for people who could certainly make use of some money to help with rent and utilities through the federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. Please pass this along to anyone in that situation, particularly if it is you. Same for landlords, who are also eligible to apply for assistance.
Where to Start
First up, CNBC reports that Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, and Oregon have all placed temporary bans on evictions of people who have pending applications for federal rental assistance. California has also extended its state eviction moratorium through September. Other states have extended their own eviction moratoria as well.
And as that short list demonstrates, one of the reasons the federal eviction aid has taken so long is that it's being distributed through states, some of which have placed a high priority on processing applications and distributing funds, and others which have just been mired in inefficiency (surprisingly, that's not necessarily a clear red state / blue state divide, either).
The two main resources for getting the application ball rolling are through a government portal run by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and via the National Low Income Housing Coalition's dashboard of 484 total programs nationwide . Both allow you to search by state, and appear to deliver similar results. CFPB's FAQ page seems pretty comprehensive, covering a whole bunch of topics in detail, for both renters and landlords; it also advises that you should ask your local program for additional information.
Who Can Apply?
We'll go with CNBC's summary here:
To be eligible for the funding, at least one member of your household has to qualify for unemployment benefits or attest in writing that they've lost income or incurred significant expenses due to the pandemic. You'll also need to demonstrate a risk of homelessness, which may include a past-due rent or utility notice.
In addition, your income level for 2020 can't exceed 80% of your area's median income, though states have been directed to prioritize applicants who fall at 50% or lower, as well as those who've been out of work for 90 days or longer.
Per the ERA FAQ:
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
Some programs may also provide housing counseling, case management, legal representation, and other housing stability services.
The rent assistance can also help with rent and utility bills going back to March 13, 2020, the beginning of the national pandemic emergency.
Applicants don't necessarily have to be behind on their rent to get help; some programs will help with upcoming rent. But if applicants do have past due rent, the assistance would go to pay that before any funds can help with future rent.
Some local programs can also help with hotel/motel room payments for people who have already lost their homes. If local programs don't cover such emergency housing, people may be able to get help through the HUD Emergency Solutions Grant program.
How Do You Prove You Qualify?
Again, we're just stealing straight from the FAQ, because Our Tax Dollars At Work (and it's pretty good work, too):
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. If you're a landlord, eligibility is based on your tenant's household needs, and you'll be asked to show that your tenant's household is eligible for assistance.
You must sign a written statement that the information in your application is correct and complete, and that you will use the emergency rental assistance for the costs it is meant to cover.
Local programs will have their own requirements for the kinds of proof required. Some will accept a written statement, and others may require detailed documentation; as CNBC points out, many of the delays in getting help to people seem to be resulting from states' insistence on making sure nobody's getting away with anything, and ARRGH that is so typical.
Where Can I Get More Information?
The CFPB's FAQ is clear and well-organized, and there is also a Spanish version (which I eventually figured out I was only seeing in English because I have Google Chrome set to automatically translate Spanish to English, DOY!). Once you've looked up the programs in your state or city, you should also be able to find help contacting someone who can give you more information.
You may also be able to get specific information for your state just by googling "emergency rental assistance" and the name of your state.
Also too, going forward, it sure as hell seems like future pandemic and economic emergencies — and they will happen — deserve a far more coordinated response. A functional federal government might actually plan for such crises in advance, at least when it's not improvising new systems of care in the middle of cleaning up after the last Republican, who insisted it was the states' problem and then went golfing.
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