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Stimulus Support for Maine Renters

Federal Assistance Allocated to Maine for Renter
Housing and Utility Payments is Largely Untapped

 

Tens of millions of dollars in federal stimulus has been set aside to assist Maine renters affected by the pandemic-related economic slump. The program can cover rent and some utilities owed by renters, including water, electricity, sewer, trash, and heat. It can also cover some other housing costs like moving expenses, rental late fees, and internet access. Eligible renters may apply for assistance with housing-related costs, even if they are not struggling to pay rent itself.

Many of those eligible for this assistance may not realize they qualify, because they think their hardships fall outside the scope of the program.

 

In Maine, this funding is being distributed through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program at Maine State Housing Authority.

(Article continues below the CAP agency links)

 

Assistance Application Agencies by County

Aroostook County
Aroostook County Action Prograp (ACAP) 
https://www.acap-me.org/ 
(207) 764-3721
rentrelief@acap-me.org
Penobscot County
Penquis (Online Application Link)
https://www.penquis.org/
Phone: (207) 307-3344
covidrental@penquis.org
Washington County
Downeast Community Partners (Online Application Link)
https://www.downeastcommunitypartners.org 
Phone: (207) 664-2424
rentrelief@downeastcommunitypartners.org
     

 

 

Tens of millions of dollars in federal stimulus has been set aside to assist Maine renters affected by the pandemic-related economic slump. The program can cover rent and some utilities owed by renters, including water, electricity, sewer, trash, and heat. It can also cover some other housing costs like moving expenses, rental late fees, and internet access. Eligible renters may apply for assistance with housing-related costs, even if they are not struggling to pay rent itself. Many of those eligible for this assistance may not realize they qualify, because they think their hardships fall outside the scope of the program.
In Maine, this funding is being distributed through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program at Maine State Housing Authority.
It’s true that applicants must meet the low-income threshold, must have had pandemic-related financial challenges, and must be at risk for housing instability. These criteria fit a much larger group of people than is generally recognized, however. 
People may not know they meet  low-income requirements, for instance. They may also not realize that reduced work hours or increased child-care costs may be considered impacts of the pandemic economy. Furthermore, “Housing Instability” doesn’t mean someone may soon be homeless. It refers to an  inability to cover the cost of adequate housing, including utilities and other non-rent costs.
This may be why relatively few Maine renters have applied for assistance. According to a recent Bangor Daily News article, only about 2% of Maine’s allocation of these stimulus funds had been applied for and distributed by the end of March. 
Many of those targeted by this assistance stimulus may have not recognized that it was intended for them. A recent US Census survey of Maine renters indicated that more than 37% had less than high confidence in their ability to meet their housing costs in the next month.

 

Eligibility

Assistance eligibility varies by location and household size. To be eligible for assistance, a tenant applicant must:
1. Meet Low-Income Threshold
This means having income that is 80% or less of the relevant county’s median income. (For a two-member household in rural Aroostook, Washington, or Penobscot Counties, this would apply to households making $43,100 or less.3)2. Have had pandemic-related Financial Difficulty
2. Have been impacted financially by the pandemic economy. This can mean a variety of different things. It applies to those who have:
Had income reduced
OR had significant costs
OR qualified for unemployment compensation sometime between March 13, 2020 and their application date.3. Be at risk for housing instability
3. Be at Risk for Housing Instability. Some of those eligible may not realize they meet this criterion. To demonstrate this risk, applicants might demonstrate that they:
Have borrowed money to pay housing costs
Or have past due rent
Or have past-due utility bills
Or have received an eviction notice.
 For more about eligibility, visit mainehousing.org or call the Maine State Housing authority at (800) 452-4668. 

 

What Costs Might This Assistance Cover for Renters?

From the MSHA web page: “The Emergency Rental Assistance Program can pay for rent and some utilities owed back to March 13, 2020. The program will also cover up to three months of upcoming rent at one time. Utilities include electricity, water, sewer, trash, and heat. 
The program can also cover late fees for rent as long as the late fees are legal and included in your lease. The program can also cover expenses such as internet.
It can also cover moving expenses such as application or screening fees and security deposits if you moved because of COVID-19. 
You may apply for help with paying for utilities even if you do not need help paying for rent...”
Applications for the program will be accepted on a rolling basis through at least September 2021.

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1. “Mainers have only received a fraction of $350 million in sweeping rental relief. “Bangor Daily News,” April 5, 2021.
2.  “Week 26 Household Pulse Survey: March 13-15,” US Census Bureau. March 24, 2021. www.census.gov.
3. Income charts are available at https://www.mainehousing.org/programs-services/rental/rental detail/era-calculator
 via Maine State Housing Authority
 

 

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