How to apply for the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program in the U.P.

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UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – Earlier this week, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) announced a $282 million rental assistance program called the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program. Another $340 million is available to be appropriated by the state legislature, bringing the program to $622 million.

The program will help provide assistance to tenants who have been impacted by the pandemic avoid eviction, and also ensuring landlords can recoup owed rent. CERA replaces the previous MSHDA Eviction Diversion Program (EDP) that was launched in July 2020 and helped about 16,000 households state-wide avoid eviction.

Funding for the program comes from the federal coronavirus aid package passed in December 2020. Of the $622 million allocated to Michigan as part of the package, $560 million will be used directly on rental and utility assistance, with the remaining $62 million set aside for case management, administrative and legal services.

There is a timeline on the use of the full appropriation of funds: 65% ($405 million) must be spent or obligated by September 30, 2021.

How to qualify for CERA and how much money you could get

MSHDA anticipates being able to assist between 50,000 and 55,000 families, or 140,000 individuals, this year through CERA. Either landlords or tenants may initiate the CERA application. Renters who are making 80% of the area median income or less are eligible.

Unlike the EDP, the U.S. Department of Treasury also requires applicants to show documentation of pandemic-related financial hardships, which can include unemployment, loss of income, and increased expenses, to qualify. Eligible households may also qualify for assistance paying utilities through CERA. Copies of bills are required so payments can be made for the renter.

How much money you receive depends on your Area Median Income:

  • Up to 50% AMI-up to 12 months of rental assistance: Included within the 12 months, 3 months can be used for future rent assistance
  • 50-80% AMI-up to 10 months of rental assistance: Included within the 10 months, 3 months can be used for future rent assistance
  • Tenants may apply for an additional 3 months of rental assistance if necessary, for housing stability

MSHDA anticipates the average rental assistance payout through CERA could be as much as $10,000, versus $3,300 per household under the EDP.

How to apply for CERA in the Upper Peninsula and local community action resources

A total of $3.8 million has been allocated for the 10 central counties in the Upper Peninsula: Alger, Baraga, Delta, Dickinson, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, Marquette, Menominee, and Schoolcraft. Community Action Alger-Marquette (CAAM) is overseeing these counties but is working with all the local community actions to help with the CERA program. Gogebic-Ontonagon Community Action Agency and Chippewa-Luce-Mackinac Community Action Agency are assisting their independent counties.

Although CAAM is the main contact for the 10 central counties, executive director Michelle LaJoie encourages tenants and landlords to reach out to your local community action office for questions and assistance. Below is the information for each community action in the Upper Peninsula:

For more information on CERA or to access a list of HARAs by county, visit Michigan.gov/CERA.

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