Numerous Programs Offer Rental Assistance — Here’s How To Get It

San Francisco, California- July 2018: Facade of apartment buildings and store fronts by a street in San Francisco.
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Cash-strapped Americans in search of rental assistance have plenty of government programs and funds to tap into, but you need to know where to look if you want to access it.

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More than 360 programs are available across the country that provide money to renters who’ve fallen behind because of the COVID-19 pandemic, CNBC reported on Thursday. The funds, which total more than $45 billion, have been included in the last two major stimulus packages with the aim of helping renters catch up on their payments.

The latest round of funding arrived earlier this month, when the Treasury Department allocated $21.6 billion for rental assistance under President Joe Biden’s rescue package, along with new rules designed to help renters more directly. As Reuters reported, the new guidance lets local rental assistance agencies offer aid directly to renters first, before offering it to landlords. It also requires that funds be offered directly to renters when landlords don’t participate in the programs.

To be eligible for rental assistance, at least one member of your household must qualify for unemployment benefits or attest in writing that they’ve lost income or incurred significant expenses due to COVID-19, CNBC noted. You also need to show a risk of homelessness, such as a past due rent notice. Finally, your 2020 income level can’t exceed 80% of your area’s median income, though states might have different income requirements.

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If you want to apply, here are some helpful tips:

  • Visit the website of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which provides a state-by-state list of the 360-plus programs that provide assistance to struggling renters. You might qualify for up to 18 months of assistance for back and future rent.
  • Even if you have already received rental assistance funds, you can always apply again if you are still behind on your rent.
  • If your landlord doesn’t accept money from the programs, contact the program directly to see if you can get the money yourself instead of the landlord.
  • Educate yourself on your rights as a tenant, especially in terms of the national eviction ban. To ensure your protection, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has declaration form (found here) to fill out showing that you meet a few of the requirements.
  • If you need free or low-cost legal help, visit the websites of Lawhelp.org or Justshelter.org.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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