Maine’s state housing authority announced Thursday that it has $200 million in emergency rent relief funds available to tenants statewide through the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

The application period will open Monday, March 1, at noon. Tenants will have to fill out an application to qualify and the funds will be distributed through the state’s community action agencies, according to the statement from MaineHousing. The new round of funding comes with more administrative and documentation requirements than previously.

Program funds can pay for up to three months of upcoming rent and utilities, and also go toward past due amounts dating back to March 13. Funding can also go toward late fees for rent as long as they are legal and included in the lease. Applicants can also apply for help with utility bills alone, according to MaineHousing.

There is no monthly cap on eligible rent relief, MaineHousing said.

Congress appropriated $25 billion for rental assistance as part of the coronavirus relief package passed in December, $200 million of which is coming to Maine.

Nearly a year into the pandemic, more Mainers are falling behind on rent payments, burning through savings and skipping bills in order to stay housed, according to a recent report by the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition.

About 2,000 applications for rent relief that were filed in Maine before the last round of the program ended Dec. 31 are still being processed, according to MaineHousing. An agency spokesperson said those applications are pending because either the tenant, landlord or both haven’t provided the necessary information or signed the agreement.

MaineHousing said its staff has been working to make sure the rent relief program complies with federal government guidelines.

To qualify, tenants must meet certain income limits, have had their income reduced or suffered financial hardship because of the pandemic, or have qualified for unemployment benefits between March 13, 2020, and the date of application. Tenants must also show they are at risk of becoming homeless. That condition may require applicants to submit past due rent and utility bills or eviction notices.

Maine’s community action agencies will review applications, check eligibility and process payments.

For more information about the program and how to apply, go to: mainehousing.org/programs-services/rental/rentaldetail/covid-19-rental-relief-program.


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