STRUGGLING renters can get help with their housing costs for up to 18 months as part of emergency coronavirus support.
In December, Congress first approved a $25billion rental assistance program, which was then followed with another $21.55billion in March.
Around 290,000 households received help from the program in June, up from 160,000 in May and 100,000 in April, according to figures released by the Treasury Department last week.
However, it added there's "still much further work to go" to ensure that renters take advantage of the help available.
If you're struggling financially, it's important not to bury your head in the sand and instead take action.
It comes as the eviction ban is set to expire this Saturday, July 31, following several extensions.
We explain how to apply for the rental assistance program below.
Who is eligible for the rental assistance program?
To qualify for rental assistance, you must have experienced financial hardship during the pandemic and be behind on your rent.
You must also meet local income requirements, which vary depending on which state you live in.
Generally, your household income can't exceed 80% of the median income for the local area.
In New York, for example, you must also receive unemployment benefits, or you may qualify if your income has dropped.
Plus, you should demonstrate there is a risk of being made homeless without support.
When the program first rolled out, priority was given to renter households with income below 50% of the local area median and those who had been unemployed for 90 days or more.
How much can I get?
How much you can get also depends on where you live and your individual circumstances.
The federal program allows eligible households to receive up to 18 months of help with rent, including overdue rent, back to March 13, 2020.
If you have overdue rent, the money must go towards rent that you owe first, but you may also get funding to cover future rent.
Local programs may also cover utility bills, including electricity, gas and trash removal as well as internet service, moving expenses and more.
In Arizona, for example, eligible households can receive up to $3,500 a month for both rent and utility support for a maximum of 18 months.
How to apply for the rental assistance program
Funds are being sent by the Department of Treasury to states based on their size.
To apply, you should contact your local emergency rental assistance (ERA) program.
In some areas, you can apply for rental assistance yourself, while others require your landlord to submit an application first.
You can also select your state on the Department of Housing and Urban Development website to find local support and see how you can apply.
If you are eligible, the funds are typically paid directly to your landlord or utility provider.
Payments can also be made directly to a tenant if the landlord rejects the assistance, but you would then need to settle the bills yourself.
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