At the end of 2020, an estimated 8.8 million renters and 2 million homeowners were significantly behind on their housing payments. If that's you, keep reading.
As you likely know, the federal eviction moratorium will expire on March 31, 2021. You need to take swift action to make sure you continue to have a roof over your head. Here is your roadmap:
Call your landlord or mortgage company and work out a payment plan. DO NOT skip this step. You MUST call and communicate with the person or company that you owe.
Use your stimulus check to catch up on housing payments.
If you have lost your job or have had your hours decreased due to COVID, apply or reapply for unemployment or COVID assistance through the unemployment office in your state.
Apply for emergency rental assistance or the homeowner assistance fund. More on this below.
Read more below about the emergency rental assistance and homeowner assistance fund to see if you could qualify for either.
Emergency Rental Assistance
Piggybacking off the CARES Act, the American Rescue Plan Act just about doubles funding to the existing Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Each state, territory, and local government received a sum to help its people.
If you qualify, you could receive up to 12 months of assistance with rent and utilities. If you're already receiving rental assistance from the government, you will not get this rental assistance.
To qualify, you must meet the following criteria (straight from home.treasury.gov):
Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19;
Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and
Has a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median.
So, basically, you must have lost a bunch of money (income or expenses) due to COVID, AND you might become homeless, AND your income is at or below 80% of the median of your area.
If you're in terrible need (unemployed for 90+ days and your household is below 50% of the area median income), then your application will be prioritized.
You can apply for this assistance through your state, district, territory, or local government. I'm in Massachusetts, so I would Google "Massachusetts COVID Emergency Rental Assistance" to find the website application for my area.
Please read more here: https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares/emergency-rental-assistance-program
Homeowner Assistance Fund
One in ten households with mortgages are currently behind in mortgage payments. If that's you, keep reading to see if you could qualify for homeowners assistance funds.
Like the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, the Homeowner Assistance Fund paid out to states, districts, territories, and local governments directly in the form of grants. These governments must use at least 60% of their grants to homeowners with delinquent payments who are earning no more than 100% of the greater area median income or nationwide median income.
To qualify (not comprehensive, as more information is forthcoming), you must meet these criteria:
You must be a homeowner with a mortgage that is not a "jumbo loan."
Meet one of the following criteria:
Has a household income at or below 100 percent of the greater area median income or nationwide median income (whichever is greater) OR
Are socially or economically disadvantaged individuals as defined by the Small Business Act. The SBA states that "socially disadvantaged individuals are those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities."
I haven't yet found additional criteria, as that's forthcoming, but I would venture to guess that you will have to submit proof that you're in a state of COVID-related forbearance, delinquency, or default similar to the criteria from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program above.
The Homeowner Assistance Fund can be used for more than just delinquent mortgage payments, though. This fund is allowed to pay for:
Delinquent mortgage payments
Facilitating interest rate reductions
Utilities and internet service
Homeowners insurance, flood insurance, and mortgage insurance
Homeowner's association fees, condominium association fees, or common charges
Other assistance to promote housing stability for homeowners
The purpose of this fund is to prevent foreclosure, postpone foreclosure, or loss of housing or utilities due to COVID-related income loss.
If that sounds like something you need, please check in with your local government. More details should be forthcoming. It's pretty new and states weren't prepared for this, so please check in every day or so at your local government's website to get more information.
These situations are extremely difficult. Please know that you're not alone. We're all doing our best to help each other weather this storm.
If you find that you need help budgeting or sticking with a budget, please check out our programs at Saver Street. We have courses and services that help many, many people earn more, save more, and give more (eventually).
Not sure how to get started? Follow these steps.
Step 1: Get The Knowledge You Need
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Step 3: Get Personalized Help For Your Situation