Maricopa County Expands Rent and Utility Assistance
With the CDC eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of the month, Maricopa County is providing a new way for individuals and families to get help with rent or utility payments. Today, the County began accepting applications for the federal Emergency Rental Assistance program. It’s an effort supported by the Board of Supervisors with the goal of preventing evictions.
“Over the past eight months, Maricopa County has provided an unprecedented amount of assistance to individuals and families struggling to pay their bills, an increase of more than tenfold what we can typically provide,” said Bruce Liggett, Director of the Maricopa County Human Services Department. “But we understand the need for help in our community is still immense and housing stability is critically important. This new federal funding allows us to continue the important work of supporting families and keeping people in their homes.”
HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS
As part of the COVID-19 relief package recently passed by Congress, Maricopa County received $46.1 million through the federal Emergency Rental Assistance program (ERA). The money is intended to provide rental and utility assistance for people with the greatest need. The Board of Supervisors approved use of the funds last month, which will be administered through the Human Services Department, based on the most recent federal guidance updated on March 16, 2021.
Maricopa County will serve eligible county residents outside of the cities of Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale, Chandler, and Gilbert. Those five cities received direct federal funding and are operating their own programs. Maricopa County will serve all other cities, towns, and the unincorporated areas of the county.
Qualifying households may receive up to 15 months of assistance for rent and utilities. Per the federal guidelines, priority is given to households who have been unemployed for the past 90 days or for those at or below 50% of the County’s median income, which is $38,900 for a household of three.
To qualify, households must have an income at or below 80% of the County’s median income, which is $56,050 for a family of three.
In addition, under ERA guidelines, one or more individuals in the household must:
- Qualify for unemployment benefits OR have experienced reduced income or increased expenses due to COVID-19; AND
- Demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability as evidenced by past due notices.
HOW TO APPLY
Households can apply through Maricopa County (via the website portal).
The portal will provide people with a screening tool to determine potential eligibility, and a secure link to submit a complete application, including uploading required documents.
Maricopa County will process applications on a first come, first served basis. We anticipate significant demand will exceed available funding, and processing and applicant notifications may lag. We ask that applicants are patient during this time.
“We understand the urgency felt by many families and will work diligently to process applications as quickly as we can,” said Liggett. “I am grateful to the Board of Supervisors for approving this funding for our community, and I’m so appreciative of the tremendous work done by our staff and Community Action Program partners in response to this crisis.”
For detailed information on how to apply, visit maricopa.gov/renthelp.
The Maricopa County Human Services Department has historically provided rent and utility assistance to low income households on a smaller scale, using multiple fund sources. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, approximately 6,600 households received 10,000 months of combined utility and rent assistance from a budget of $5 million annually.
Over the past 8 months, in response to the pandemic, the County has expanded that assistance greatly. The Department developed policy, modified automated systems, hired and trained staff, and provided over $55 million in funding for 13,300 households and a total of nearly 45,000 combined months of assistance.
This effort was funded primarily through CARES Act dollars allocated by the Board of Supervisors. The County provided $46.25 million in rental assistance and $13 million in utility assistance between July 2020 and February 2021, largely through simplified eligibility and payment procedures for families impacted by COVID-19.
In addition to ERA funds, Maricopa County expects to receive an additional $30 million from the recently passed American Recovery Act.