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by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Jan. 11, 2021
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Struggling to cover your housing costs? Here's what you need to know.
After months of negotiations, lawmakers finally settled on a $900 coronavirus relief bill in late December that included a follow-up round of stimulus checks, more unemployment, and rental assistance -- $25 billion worth, to be specific. If you're having trouble making ends meet and have exhausted your savings, see if you're eligible for this much-needed benefit.
To be eligible for rental assistance, you need at least one person in your household who qualifies for unemployment benefits or has proof of income loss due to the pandemic. Similarly, if you can prove that your household incurred a substantial uptick in expenses due to the pandemic, you can qualify.
You'll also need to prove that you're at risk of becoming homeless in the absence of aid by providing copies of past due rent statements or notices from your landlord. Plus, your 2020 income can't exceed 80% of your area's median income to qualify. That said, states have been instructed to prioritize very low income applicants whose income is at 50% or less of a given area's median income, as well as those who have been jobless for 90 days or more. And unfortunately, a lot of people meet the latter criteria in today's economy.
The application process for rental assistance will vary depending where you live, but states should have those funds available by Jan. 20. You can start the process by contacting your state's housing department or local helplines and seeing how to apply.
If you qualify for rental assistance, you may be eligible for up to 12 months' worth of back rent and utilities, plus another three months' worth if there's money left over. Any funds you receive will be paid directly to your landlord or utility provider.
Since the federal eviction moratorium was extended until Jan. 31, your landlord can't begin to force you out of your home before then. Also, some states and counties have issued their own eviction rules, so it pays to see what protections your area has put in place. If you don't qualify for rental assistance but are behind on rent and can't pay, try to negotiate with your landlord.
The eviction process isn't exactly a walk in the park for landlords. It's expensive, it's time consuming, and it's downright unpleasant. If you can afford to pay a portion of your rent but not all of it, your landlord may be willing to work out an arrangement, especially if you were a tenant in good standing who always paid on time before the pandemic hit.
Right now, a lot of people are struggling financially and wondering how they'll make good on their rent. If you fall into that category, don't hesitate to apply for rental assistance and other pandemic resources. You may be in line for a substantial amount of aid that eases your financial burden and brings you that much closer to recovering from the impact of the pandemic.
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