There's Still $15 Billion in Rental Stimulus Funds -- but You'll Need to Act Quickly to Get It

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Many renters are still struggling -- but aid is also still available.

Key points

  • There's been roughly $46 billion allocated to rent relief since late 2020.
  • As of late March, $15 billion of that had gone unspent, but those needing aid shouldn't hesitate to apply.

When the COVID-19 outbreak first hit U.S. soil, it spurred an unemployment crisis unlike any our country had seen. During the early weeks of the pandemic, new jobless claims were filed by the millions, and in the absence of having money in savings, many Americans quickly fell behind on essential bills.

Thankfully, protections were put into place to prevent a mass homelessness crisis. Those included a federal moratorium on evictions and the option for mortgage borrowers to put their home loans into forbearance for a period of time.

Those protections have since run out. But that doesn't mean those struggling with housing costs are completely out of luck. Borrowers can work with their mortgage lenders to modify the terms of their home loans in an effort to stay current. And tenants who are behind on rent can still apply for rental assistance funds.

In fact, the last two stimulus bills signed into law allocated about $46 billion in rent relief money. Those funds were then distributed at the state level, and each state was tasked with taking applications for aid.

At this point, much of that $46 billion has been spent. But some states aren't out of money just yet. As of the end of March, over $15 billion in rent relief funds had not yet been given out, as per the U.S. Department of Treasury. And that means there's still money available to those who act quickly.

Don't hesitate to seek relief

Perhaps you're still struggling to stay current on bills, including rent, due to not having yet recovered from the financial blow of the pandemic. If that's the case, your best bet is to apply for rental assistance as soon as you can.

While there's still a $15 billion pool of funds that's yet to be disbursed, many states are also in the process of working through existing rent relief applications. If you want a shot at that aid, your best bet is to get your own application in as soon as possible -- before the money runs out.

If your application is approved, you may be eligible for up to 18 months of rental assistance. That could include money to cover past-due rent, as well as upcoming rent. Plus, you may be eligible for additional aid even if you already received some rent relief funds, so it's worth contacting your state housing office and seeing what options you have.

Who qualifies for aid?

Generally, to be eligible for rent relief, you must prove the pandemic had a negative impact on your finances. There are also income limits that come into play. Generally, your income can't exceed 80% of your area's median income.

Keep in mind that each state has its own method for prioritizing applications. Some states, for example, are giving priority to applicants who are unemployed and whose income falls at 50% or less than the area median income.

But either way, it's worth seeing what help is available to you if you're struggling to keep up with rent payments and are worried about losing your home. Although the U.S. economy has recovered nicely from the pandemic, that doesn't mean every individual has. It pays to see if a round of rent relief funds could help get you through whatever personal financial crisis you're grappling with.

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