After more than a year of enduring the Covid-19 pandemic, an estimated 11.3 percent of Maine households are not current on their rent. As individuals and families struggle with lower or lost income, a coalition of 2,272 organizations across the nation urged President Biden to extend a national moratorium on eviction first signed into law by President Trump. The deadline was pushed back to June, and President Biden recently allocated another $152 million to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).
Midcoast Maine Community Action is one of ten community action agencies in Maine working with MaineHousing to manage a rental relief program. Gri Font-Mason is MMCA’s ERA Program Coordinator, and she says that the program has received 360 applications since it launched on March 1. “It’s gratifying to be able to help both tenants and landlords at a time when many people are facing tragic circumstances,” Gri says.
The program makes relief funding available to renters and landlords, and either party must attest to a lease agreement and work with a program specialist to verify income, rent, and ownership of the unit or building. ERAP can provide funds for rent past due, dating back to March 13, 2020. Applicants can also receive up to three months of funds to cover future rent, up to 15 months total.
“Covid-19 has put a lot of families in situations where they can’t feed and house their families,” says Gri. “Businesses are shut down, and there have been layoffs. This program allows people to pay for the months they’ve fallen behind and know they’ll have some measure of stability in the uncertain months ahead. Preventing homelessness or hunger helps keep families from spiraling into crisis.”
Gri says that individuals and families who apply for rental assistance are also referred to other programs and services at MMCA, including Covid-19 and emergency supports, case management, WIC nutrition services, Head Start + Early Head Start, and Families CAN! parenting programs. “The goal of ERA is housing stability,” she explains. “Even with such an overwhelming volume of applications, the opportunity to serve so many families is more than rewarding.”
MMCA is currently hiring an Intake and Eligibility Specialist to work with the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
Do you need help making rent payments? Learn more and apply for Emergency Rental Assistance.