Emergency rental assistance program to roll out soon
February 18, 2021
The Wyoming Department of Family Services (DFS) has been instructed to make preparations for administering a new federal program that has distributed $25 billion throughout the nation for households unable to pay rent and utilities due to the pandemic. Of that funding, Wyoming has been allocated $200 million.
These Emergency Rental Assistance payments are being made directly to the states, U.S. territories, local governments for populations over 200,000 and Indian tribes. At least 90 percent of the funds must be used for direct financial assistance, such as rent, rental arrears, utilities and home energy costs, while the rest may be used for housing stability services.
Governor Mark Gordon announced last week that he has issued an executive order to kickstart preparations and allow the DFS to prepare its distribution plan and work with the Legislature on its details.
“The need for this program cannot be understated, but it requires significant work to run it effectively and that’s what begins now,” Governor Mark Gordon said. “Wyoming’s network of nonprofit and community service organizations continue to report statistics demonstrating Wyomingites’ need for relief during this global pandemic and historic recession. I look forward to working with legislators to launch this program.”
Eligible households will be able to receive up to a year’s worth of assistance, plus an additional three months if needed and funds are available.
According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, an “eligible household” is a renter household in which at least one person qualifies for unemployment or has experience a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs or experienced financial hardship. Applicants will also need to demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability and have a household income at or below 80% of the median in the area.
According to a press release from the governor’s office, Wyoming 2-1-1 reported a 280% increase in calls for rental assistance in 2020. The program covers back rent, which will assist Wyoming landlords left with unpaid rent bills as well as those tenants who are struggling.
The final steps to implement the program will be taken once the Legislature reconvenes in March. At that time, an application process is expected to be put in place and publicized to Wyoming citizens.