Sense & Centsibility Blog
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Struggling to Pay Rent and Utilities? Help is Available!

Have you fallen behind on your rent and utilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, or are you worried about future rent/utility payments? If you answered yes, you could benefit from RentHelpMN, a new state program from Minnesota Housing.

Eligible Minnesota renters can receive help with rent, utility bills and additional housing costs (e.g., late fees) beginning March 13, 2020 and after. If you qualify, you could receive up to 15 months total assistance. Payments for past-due rent will be made in 3-month increments. Covered utilities include gas, electric, water, sewer and trash removal and will be paid once they are approved. Phone and internet services are not included.

RentHelpMN is currently in Phase 1 of the program, in which only Minnesotans who currently are behind on rent and utilities can apply for assistance. (In Phase 2, Minnesotans who are not past due on rent and utilities can apply if they are at risk of falling behind on future rent and utility payments.)

Eligibility Guidelines

  • You must be a current Minnesota renter.
  • You must be impacted negatively by COVID-19. This could include job loss, eligibility for unemployment insurance, reduced work hours, increased costs, financial strain from caring for children while schools are closed, and financial strain because of health challenges.
  • Your annual household income must be at or below 80% of the Area Median Income in your area. (If you are receiving government assistance, e.g., food support, housing subsidies, General Assistance, you likely will be eligible.)

Additional Information for Renters

  • The RentHelpMN renter’s checklist has information regarding income guidelines and a list of documents renters will need when they apply.
  • The RentHelpMN website has a page with answers to frequently asked questions.
  • You can apply online, or you can request that a paper application be mailed to you.
  • Call or text 2-1-1 if you have any additional questions regarding the RentHelpMN program or need support in applying. Multilingual staff are available to answer questions from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. LSS Housing Services will be one of the agencies administering the program.

How Landlords Can Help

If you are a landlord and your tenant(s) are currently struggling with their housing costs, you can help them by doing these 3 things:

  • Increase awareness of RentHelpMN. Spread the word about this program to through personal contacts with tenants, listservs, emails, social media, flyers and other marketing tools you might have.
  • Support tenants to get them ready to apply. Provide your tenants with the necessary documentation to apply, such as their lease and rental payment history. If your tenants need a computer with internet access, a scanner or copy machine to submit their application, make your equipment available to them if you can.
  • Get your documentation ready. After your tenants submit their application, you will receive a request to submit additional documents to help complete the process. The RentHelpMN landlord’s checklist has more suggestions for increasing awareness, details on how you can assist your tenants and a list of required documents you need to submit.

If you would like assistance in creating a realistic budget, reducing debt, improving your credit and/or managing student loan payments, LSS Financial Counseling is here to provide that free, confidential support. Contact us at 888.577.2227, or get all your support online.

Ray McCoy

 

Author Ray McCoy is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.