by Mary Schuermann Kuhlman
LANSING, Mich. — The pandemic has exacerbated the struggles of low-income Michiganders, including the severe housing cost burden faced by many renters.
New funding can help ease that burden, including $622 million available through the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program to keep renters in their homes and help landlords recoup missed payments.
Michigan’s Eviction Diversion Program ended in December.
Eva Rohlman, outreach services director for Mid-Michigan Community Action, said low-income renters have gone without financial support since then.
“They need it absolutely now,” Rohlman emphasized. “The resources that currently exist in communities cannot keep up. We are getting calls every day from landlords and tenants who are behind, know they’re behind and need help.”
Community Action Agencies and other local nonprofits will be assisting with program applications and funding distribution.
Prior to the pandemic, an estimated one in three Michigan renters was extremely low-income, and many spent more than half of their income on housing.
Kelly Rose, chief housing solutions officer for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, said to qualify for the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program, renters need to be below 80% of the area median income, which is adjusted by county and household size.
“And then they also have to experience a COVID hardship,” Rose explained. “So have been on unemployment, had a reduction in income, increased expenses or another financial hardship to be eligible for the program.”
Rose added more than 50,000 households are expected to receive payment assistance, which could be as high as $10,000 dollars.