Struggling to meet rent and other housing-related expenses? There’s a lifeline in the form of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Established by the government, this initiative provides aid for those grappling with hefty rental bills and the threat of eviction. 

The ERA program, which came as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is a provision of the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

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Struggling to Pay Rent? These Programs May Be Able to Help

Even though the program is federal, it is administered by individual state governments. The Treasury funnels rent assistance and other housing expense grants to states, which can also cover exceptional living situations such as houseboat mooring fees and lot rentals for mobile homes.

Eligibility for rent aid is determined by state and local programs, often requiring applicants to have a low or very low income. The income cap for rental assistance eligibility varies, depending on the median income (AMI) of your locality. For instance, eligibility might extend to applicants whose household income falls below 80 or 50 percent of the AMI.

You might be a candidate for government rent aid if you:

  • Receive unemployment benefits.
  • Have experienced an income dip.
  • Have significant expenses, such as medical costs.
  • Have faced other forms of financial hardship.

In certain states, your landlord may have to join you in the application process or apply on your behalf. As a tenant needing aid, you may seek emergency assistance for:

  • Utility costs.
  • Rent.
  • Energy expenses.
  • Relocation costs.
  • Application fees and security deposits.
  • Hotel and motel accommodations.
  • Internet services.

Landlords can also apply for rental aid for tenants residing in their properties.

Additional Rental Assistance Options

Local governments may offer extra emergency housing expense grants. Some states are dispensing stimulus subsidies to residents below a specific income level. Inquire with your local government about ongoing and newly launched emergency funds and programs.

Charitable organizations might also provide emergency rental aid. The Salvation Army, for example, includes rental assistance in its Emergency Assistance Program, which provides crucial short-term aid. Similarly, the United Way’s temporary rental and mortgage payment assistance can guide residents towards financial stability.

Non-Emergency Programs

The ESG Emergency Solutions Grants program is designed for individuals and families experiencing housing crises such as homelessness. The federal government equips states with grants to provide emergency shelter, prevent homelessness, and deliver other related services.

The Section 8 program offers rental vouchers to lower the rent owed to landlords. While qualifying applicants may receive aid, Section 8 is not a fast solution for rent emergencies. 

Due to high demand, benefit receipt can be a lengthy process, as Section 8 resources are often outweighed in many regions. Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) usually have waitlists, meaning it could take weeks, months, or even years for an applicant’s rental aid status to move up the list.

Besides rent and utility aid, the government also offers assistance for other expenses. The following free programs could help you cut down your grocery bill.