Since the pandemic, utility bills have doubled for one out of every six homes, with 20 million households falling behind on paying utilities, according to Bloomberg.
As CNN reported in 2021, “There is no state, county or city in the country where a full-time, minimum-wage worker working 40 hours a week can afford a two-bedroom rental,” per a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
The pandemic certainly irritated an already unstable housing situation for many, but as Benefits.gov reminds us, there are several support programs available to Americans from all backgrounds experiencing issues with making their rent and struggling to get by. Three such resources are the U.S. Department of the Treasury-funded Emergency Rental Assistance Program and two U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs — the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) and the Housing Counseling Assistance Program.
Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)
Stemming from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, ERAP provides $25 billion to help households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Federally monitored but state and municipal administered, low-income households paying rent are eligible for this benefit program if they fall into all these three conditions:
- Have a household income at or below 80% of Area Median Income (AMI)
- Be at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability
- Have one or more individuals within the household who have experienced a decrease in income or a financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, qualifies for unemployment or has incurred significant costs, per the ERAP site
Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)
Housing Choice Vouchers — also known as the Section 8 program — are issued to very low-income families to find safe and sanitary housing. A recipient household is responsible for finding housing that meets program standards and must agree to rent the accommodation under the program rules. To qualify, households must meet the following two eligibility requirements:
- Have low or very low income based on annual gross income
- Be in need of decent, safe and/or sanitary housing
To apply, contact your local public housing agency (PHA) that administers the housing choice vouchers.
Housing Counseling Assistance Program
According to Benefits.gov, HUD funds and sponsors housing counseling agencies throughout the country to provide free or low cost advice to homeowners, renters and buyers on “buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, credit issues and reverse mortgages.”
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