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Behind on rent? This is what Americans have to know about

For the 8.8 million rented Americans, a rundown of what’s available, who qualifies, and where to get help.

An estimated 8.8 million Americans are behind, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Though relief efforts have stayed off some housing crises, rent is still due.

The U.S. federal government has approved two rounds of rental assistance worth more than $46bn in total, steadily working its way to tenants.

The federal eviction moratorium was extended to the end of June. But preventing expulsion doesn’t remove any rent owed. Assessments vary, but landlords owe $13.2bn to $52.6bn in back rent everywhere, the Urban Institute reports.

Up to 20 Million Americans Are Behind on Rent, Risk Eviction

If you’re struggling, you should know how to access this help:

What’s there?

Congress passed two rental relief packages. The first, accepted in December, provided rental relief of $25bn. The second, authorised in March, provides over $21bn.

Overall, assistance will help pay back rent, next month’s rent, and other utility bills. Renters will be given a year or more of assistance if they are unable to pay their rent.

This, in addition to other local programmes, will offer various means of assistance. There has been some trouble accessing these programmes, but housing experts are hoping this new round of federal rental assistance can benefit more citizens.

Who’s eligible

There is some flexibility for states to customise the scheme, but in general, federal aid money is available to those who receive 80% or less of their area’s median income and have undergone some form of COVID-19-related hardship. Preference is provided to those with 50% or less of their area’s median income.

The household in need or the landlord may apply on behalf of the household. Usually, money is paid directly to landlords and service providers.

However, certain tenants do not choose to participate because it needs a certain amount of paperwork and compromises, such as promising not to increase the rent or expel the tenant for a period of time.

If a landlord fails to participate, funds may be billed directly to the eligible household.

Where should I go? – Struggling Americans

Renters needing assistance can contact their local housing authority and find out whether they qualify for federal relief and any local aid.

Federal rent relief funds are distributed to states, U.S. territories, local governments, and tribes for implementation in their respective regions through programs.It took some time for the money, however, to reach these organisations.

National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel said funding has been allocated from the first round, and about 60 percent of neighbourhoods have open programmes that increase daily. But the second round money won’t go out until May.

“Help is on,” Yentel said.

Americans unemployed, behind on rent as holidays approach -  Path of Ex

The National Low Income Housing Coalition tracks all rental assistance programmes on its website. Renters in need should start finding a programme in their city. They can also enter United Way or its 211 assistance programme. People may also speak to a housing advisor with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Federal Trade Commission, US Treasury and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau all have rental assistance information on their websites.

There is some concern that demand could outstrip supply. Renters can act quickly or check back frequently if a programme is not immediately available in their region. If renters do not qualify for federal relief money, they can get aid from other programmes available in their state.

“The number one thing renters should do is make a schedule,” said NeighborWorks chief operating officer Susan Ifill. “Accessing these services is one thing, but prepare.”

This may involve talking to a housing advisor, or partnering with your landlord to create a plan to repay rent or find new housing.

If someone is concerned about being evicted, note that until the end of June, the nationwide eviction moratorium remains in effect. Renters must complete the paperwork and send it to their landlords.

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