Rent relief program using $173 million in federal funds launches in Arkansas

by Marine Glisovic ([email protected]) 964 views 

Additional help is available for Arkansas renters who have lost jobs or are struggling financially due to the pandemic. The Arkansas Department of Human Services launched the Arkansas Rent Relief program Monday (May 17), which utilizes $173 million in federal funds.

“The need for rental assistance has been present since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “I appreciate the work that’s being done by the Arkansas Department of Human Services in conjunction with our federal partners to help renters and landlords who need assistance during this time.”

The program is aimed at covering past rent, future rent and certain utilities such as water, electricity and gas. Mary Franklin, DHS’s Director of Division of County Operations, said payment assistance can be used for up to 15 months of rent or utilities incurred between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021.

“In the program, we will be making payments directly to landlords and utility providers at this time and the amount of coverage that someone may qualify for can be up to a maximum of 15 months,” Franklin said.

While there is no threshold, or dollar amount, on how much rent assistance a person can qualify for – certain criteria must be met.

  • Someone in the household must qualify for unemployment benefits;
  • Someone’s income decreased or a person incurred significant financial hardship due to the pandemic; or
  • Meeting income eligibility requirements.

“Everyone in the household must meet the income requirement for the program which is 80% of area median income,” she added.

Average monthly income (AMI) is calculated based on the county a renter resides in and can vary. While rent and past utilities will be covered, this program does not cover phone, internet, reimbursement of paid bills, mortgage payments, or commercial leases.

When applying for this assistance, Arkansans need the following documents:

  • Proof of renting a home
  • A government issued I.D.
  • Proof of housing instability, such as past due notices
  • Proof of income for all tax filing household members
  • Proof of financial loss or hardship due to COVID-19

Franklin said renters in Pulaski, Benton and Washington counties will have to contact their local county offices for assistance first. Once their local offices run out of assistance, DHS will use funds from the Arkansas Rent Relief program to continue assisting those renters.

“What we do at Human Services, everyday whether there is a pandemic or not, is administer programs and help people who need help and to be able to help people in this new way is exciting for us and we’re very glad that this program has become available,” Franklin said.

You can apply for assistance online by clicking here.

For additional questions or if you need assistance applying you can call their hotline at 1-855-736-8275. The phone number is live Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Another program DHS continues to offer is the Emergency Solutions Grant. This program is eligible to Arkansans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to the coronavirus pandemic. A list of organizations offering this program by county can be found here.

Editor’s note: Marine Glisovic is the senior political reporter for KATV News and is a contributor to Talk Business & Politics.

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