Help available for Montana families facing eviction

Posted at 8:16 AM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 10:26:44-04

HELENA — The additional federal unemployment assistance and the eviction moratorium established by the federal CARES Act runs out this month.

Congress is looking at additional protections, but nothing is concrete, and August rent and mortgage payments are still due.

The Montana Department of Commerce is partnering with Neighborworks Montana to help raise awareness about their COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program, and hopefully, help more Montanans not lose their home.

“We are really excited to partner with Neighborworks Montana, which is an absolute expert in the state with counseling for homeowners and renters across the state,” said Department of Commerce Director Tara Rice.

The Emergency Housing Assistance Program is funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and the Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program provides rent, security deposit and mortgage payment assistance for Montanans who have lost a job or substantial income as a result of COVID-19.

Applicants are eligible for up to $2,000 per month. The program pays the difference between 30% of the household’s current gross monthly income and their eligible housing assistance costs. Income limits range from $75,000-$125,000 annually based on family size.

Even if a person is back at work, they can still apply if their income was affected by COVID-19 anytime since April 1, 2020

“For many people, a job loss or a reduction in income occurred earlier this spring and if they’re behind on rent or their mortgage payment. The program can help them get current in addition to help them make their monthly payments,” said Rice.

A total of $50 million dollars have been allocated to the program, but only a little over $1 million has been paid to landlords or mortgage servicers on behalf of applicants as of July 29. There have been just over 1,700 total applications with 506 applications approved.

Rice says the partnership will help get the word out to individuals all across the state about the COVID Emergency Housing Program, and Neighborworks will be able to assist families with the paperwork.

“Often the folks who are in most need of this support are one who have struggles with computer access, internet access and other things that make it difficult for them to apply,” said Rice.

Neighborworks Montana works with thousands of families every year to assist with education and financing for housing.

“COVID has been something that has upended everything, and there is no shame in taking advantage of some of these resources that are available if your family or you as an individual have been affected by COVID,” said Katie Biggs, Marketing & Resource Development Manager with NeighborWorks Montana.

Housing payments are often the lion’s share of a family's budget and Biggs hopes more people will take advantage of this program -- and reach out if they need assistance.

“This is a time where people are feeling really stressed, lost and without help,” said Biggs. “There’s so many questions, and we don’t want housing to be one of them for people.”

Montana was one of the first states to implement CARES funding for emergency housing relief.

Six states and the city of Chicago have reached out to Montana to model their own programs on the Emergency Assistance Housing Program.

More information about the Emergency Housing Assistance Program can be found here.

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