Need Rent Relief in Massachusetts? You Now Have Less Than a Month to Apply

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  • Massachusetts is still accepting applications for federal rent relief funds.
  • Come April 15, the state will stop accepting applications, at which point those in need of assistance will be limited to a state-funded program.

There are still funds available, but the deadline is fast approaching.

When the COVID-19 outbreak first hit U.S. soil, many nonessential businesses were forced to shutter in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. That led to a huge wave of unemployment -- and a personal financial crisis for the many Americans who lost their jobs and didn't have money in savings to fall back on.

Recognizing that a massive uptick in unemployment could quickly spur an eviction crisis, lawmakers put a ban into place that prevented landlords from kicking tenants out on the basis of owing rent. That ban expired last year, though some states and cities extended their own protections further. But at this point, tenants who are behind on rent largely need to come up with that money or otherwise risk losing their homes.

Thankfully, though, they don't necessarily have to come up with it themselves. That's because many states still have rent relief funds available.

Massachusetts is one of them. The state still has some funds left over in its pool of federal emergency rental assistance dollars. But tenants need to apply for relief soon. The state says it will stop accepting new applications on April 15, which means those who are behind on their rent need to get moving quickly -- before they miss that deadline and risk losing their homes.

A much-needed lifeline

Although the U.S. economy has recovered nicely from the blow of the pandemic -- at least from an unemployment standpoint -- many people have yet to recover individually. If you live in Massachusetts and are behind on your rent, it pays to apply for aid to get caught up and avoid losing your home.

If you qualify for rental assistance, you may be eligible to receive up to 18 months of rent payments, some of which could include future rent payments. To be eligible, your income needs to be no more than 80% of the area median income -- and you'll need to prove financial hardship related to COVID-19.

Income verification includes providing proof of your 2020 income by submitting a copy of that year's tax return. And, you'll need two pay stubs from the past 60 days (or proof of other types of income, like Social Security or unemployment benefits).

Now if you don't manage to apply for federal rent relief funds by April 15, you may still be entitled to relief under the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program. RAFT is a state-funded program that could provide up to $7,000 for rent and other housing expenses, such as moving costs.

But if you owe a lot of money on past-due rent, $7,000 in aid may not be enough to get you current -- and help you avoid eviction. And so it's worth it to get moving on your application as soon as you can.

You can apply for rental assistance online by April 15, and once you do, it pays to inform your landlord that you've done so. Doing so could prevent your landlord from trying to move forward with an eviction -- and spare you a world of stress.

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