Do you need help paying rent and other housing expenses? The government established the Emergency Rental Assistance program to help those who are deep in rental debt and face eviction. The ERA program is a new rent relief program that stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic under the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Although it is a federal rent assistance initiative, state governments administer the program. The Treasury provides states with grants for rent assistance and other housing expenses, like utilities. ERA funds can also pay for special-living situations, such as mooring fees for houseboats and lot rentals for mobile homes.
State and local programs determine who qualifies for help paying rent, and most require you to be a low-income resident. The maximum income one can have and qualify for rental assistance depends on the area’s median income (AMI) where you live. For instance, some applicants may qualify if their household income is less than 80 or 50 percent of the AMI.
The government may help with rent if you:
- Qualify for unemployment benefits.
- Experienced a reduction in income.
- Incurred significant expenses, like medical care costs.
- Experienced another type of financial hardship.
In some states, your landlord may need to apply with you or on your behalf. You may request emergency assistance if you are a tenant who needs help with:
- Utilities and energy costs.
- Moving expenses.
- Application fees and security deposits.
- Hotel and motel rooms.
- Internet services.
You may also apply for rental relief help for renters living at your properties if you are a landlord.
Other Rental Assistance Options
Your local government may have additional emergency grants for housing expenses. Several states are issuing stimulus subsidies to residents with incomes below a certain threshold. Check with your local government about existing and new emergency funds and programs.
Some charity organizations offer emergency rental assistance as well. For instance, Salvation Army rental assistance is part of its Emergency Assistance Program for providing essential, short-term help. Likewise, United Way assistance with rent and mortgage payments is temporary, but can help residents get back on the path to financial stability.
The ESG Emergency Solutions Grants program is for individuals and families who are in a housing crisis, like experiencing homelessness. The federal government gives states grants to provide emergency shelter, prevent homelessness and offer other related services.
The Section 8 program provides rental vouchers that reduce the amount of rent you owe your landlord. Applicants may receive assistance if they qualify, but Section 8 does not provide fast help with rent in emergencies.
It can take a long time to receive benefits since the housing demand is higher than Section 8 resources in many areas. Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) often have waiting lists, and an applicant’s rental relief status can take weeks, months or even years to reach the top.
The government provides assistance for other expenses in addition to rent and utilities. The next free programs may help reduce your grocery bill.