The coronavirus stimulus package that passed Congress on Monday night provides $25 billion in relief to struggling renters across the country. The president still needs to sign the bill for it to become law, which remains unclear.
The aid is needed. Between 7 million and 14.2 million renter households are at risk of eviction, according to an analysis tool created by Stout Risius Ross, a global advisory firm.
“The bill is structured to prioritize help for the lowest income renters who have experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic and are at risk of housing instability,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com, a real estate listing site.
Here’s what to know.
Who is eligible for rental aid?
Eviction relief is available to the following tenants:
Those with household incomes that do not exceed 80% of their area median income (AMI);
Those who have one or more household members who can demonstrate housing instability;
Or those who have at least one household member who qualifies for unemployment benefits due to the pandemic.
“These funds will be especially helpful for those renting from small-time landlords who may not have pockets deep enough to cover the expenses they are still accruing despite not receiving rent,” Hale said.
Renters with incomes that don’t exceed 50% of AMI and those who were unemployed for 90 or more days will receive priority. The aid will cover both rent and utility payments missed during the pandemic.
The renter’s household income for 2020 or their monthly income when applying will be used to determine household income. This must be recertified every three months if the renter continues to receive aid.
What about the eviction moratorium?
This relief is combined with an extension of the eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention through January 31, 2021. Previously, the moratorium expired on December 31.
To receive a rental eviction moratorium, you must fill out a declaration form from the CDC.
How is the aid being distributed?
From the $25 billion, $400 million will be passed down to U.S. territories and $800 million to tribal communities. The remainder would be distributed to states.
Smaller states will receive a minimum of $200 million in emergency rental assistance. Localities with populations over 200,000 can receive their allocation directly.
“At least 90% of the [aid] must be used to provide financial assistance, including back and forward rent and utility payments, and other housing expenses,” said Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition in a statement this Monday. “Assistance can be provided for 12 months, or up to 15 months if needed to ensure housing stability for the household.”
The remainder of the 10% funds would be dispersed for administrative services such as case management to keep households stably housed.
How can you receive access to the aid?
Cities and states can make payments directly to your landlord or utility companies on your behalf as long. If your landlord refuses to accept the assistance, the aid will go directly to you to pay your landlord or utility provider.
Property owners can also apply for assistance or apply on a renter’s behalf. If a landlord does so, they need the tenant to co-sign the application and the landlord must give the tenant a copy of the application. The payments must be used only for the tenant’s missed rent.
Since grantees differ on a state-by-state basis, you should call 211 to see where your nearest aid office is, experts recommended.
“The hardest part is how do we inform people these resources exist?” Noelle Porter said, director of government affairs at the National Housing Law Project. “The one thing I tell people is call 211 and ask your local providers where the relief is.”