Big Sky Roundup

Department of Commerce: More than $10M in rent, assistance, paid

By: - July 8, 2021 2:32 pm

(Illustration by Getty Images)

Montana Housing announced Thursday that more than $10 million in rent and utility assistance has been paid to support Montanans who have experienced financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were at risk of housing instability, according to a news release from the Montana Department of Commerce. The federally funded assistance is provided by the Montana Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

“This program has already released more money in three months than was distributed in eight months in 2020,” Department of Commerce Director Scott Osterman said in a statement. “Montana is again a leader in providing assistance to our neighbors financially impacted by the pandemic.”

Launched in early April, the program provides financial support to help eligible Montanans pay future and past due rent up to a monthly maximum of $2,200, up to $300 per month for past due and future utilities including gas and electric, plus $50 per month for internet.

At this time, the program has assisted more than 1,700 Montanans with more than $10.2 million total funding, averaging over $5,700 per household, said a news release from the agency. Currently, there are approximately 1,000 applications submitted for assistance under eligibility review.

The program serves Montanans whose gross household income does not exceed 80 percent of the area median income. Applicants can check their income eligibility using Montana Housing’s online tool. Other eligibility conditions include:

  • One or more individuals in the household has qualified for unemployment benefits, experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the COVID-19 emergency.
  • The household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, which may include a past due rent notice, eviction notice or unsafe or unhealthy living conditions.

Eligible households can receive assistance for rent and utility bills dating back to April 1, 2020.

The program is funded through the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and was appropriated to Montana Housing, a division of the Montana Department of Commerce, by the 2021 Montana Legislature.

On June 24, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the temporary ban on residential evictions for one final month, until July 31, 2021. The Department of Commerce has partnered with the Montana Legal Services Association on the Montana Eviction Intervention Project, a program that provides civil legal assistance for Montanans facing evictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The Montana Emergency Rental Assistance program has helped many Montana families and individuals stay in their own homes without worry of eviction,” Montana Housing Division Administrator Cheryl Cohen said in a statement. “We have more funding available and encourage Montanans who need rent or utility assistance to start their applications and apply now.”

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