PHOENIX - Funding from the federal government will help fund rental assistance programs in Arizona and in Phoenix.
Governor Doug Ducey announced on Feb. 9 that Arizona will launch a new federally funded program to provide rental assistance to people in need of housing help due to unemployment and certain other circumstances caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program "will keep families and those in need in their homes and help them get back on their feet as we overcome the effects of the pandemic," Ducey said in a statement.
The state program will be run by the Department of Economic Security and provide help in 12 of the state’s 15 counties. The three other counties — Maricopa, Pima and Yuma — are receiving federal funding directly, and plan their own rental assistance programs, Ducey’s statement said.
DES will direct renters living in those three counties to their local jurisdictions.
The assistance will provide direct payments for rent, rental arrears, utilities, utility arrears, and other expenses related to housing stability, the statement said.
Applications can be submitted online at des.az.gov/ERAP starting Feb. 23.
The $25 billion federal program awarded $492 million to Arizona, with $292 million going to the state and the rest to large cities and counties, according to the statement.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix City Council met on the afternoon of Feb. 9 to allocate $51.1 million in emergency rental assistance from the federal government. The funding was received by the city in January.
In a statement, Phoenix city officials say the city council has approved $51 million in federal funding for Phoenix residents who need help making their rent payments and covering the cost of home utilities.
"Last year, the city distributed more than $29 million in CARES Act assistance to more than 5,700 households. Yet, while COVID-19 continues to stress public health and the local economy, the need persists," read a portion of hte statement.
City officials noted the new Emergency Rental Assistance program is structured differently than the prior program.
"Under the ERA, eligible residents may receive up to 15 months of help with past-due rent. There is no cap on the dollar amount of assistance, but participants must be recertified every three months. Utility assistance includes help with past-due amounts for residential water, gas and electricity," read a portion of the statement.
In order to receive the funding, the city had to allocate the last of the $293.3 million it had in federal funding last year and wait several weeks after the deadline at the end of last year to learn if they would be given the new grant. The city then had to come up with a plan on how to spend within the grant's strict guidelines.
Some of the money is earmarked to go to hiring and training new city staff to distribute the money throughout the year, which will help residents with rent and utility payments.
All the money needs to be spent by the end of the year, with at least 65% of those funds spent by the end of September. Otherwise, the money will be sent back to the U.S. Treasury.
The funds will go to people based on income or if residents have been on unemployment for at least 90 days, with an income cap of $62,250 for a family of four, and must have sustained a reduction in household income due to the pandemic.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego says these funds will provide much-needed support and a lifeline to residents as the city continues to fight through this crisis.
Arizonans speak out over rent payment relief
Many Arizonans are behind on rent and other payments, with some families behind three, four, and even five months on rent, due to circumstances of the pandemic.
"There’s a lot of us. It’s not just me. I mean yes, I’m a single mom. There’s a lot of single dads. Moms and dads. We're all struggling to get back on our feet," said Elizabeth Newcomb of Prescott.
FOX 10 first interviewed Newcomb in 2020, as she was struggling to get unemployment benefits. She is months behind on rent, and has tried to apply for assistance.
"Sometimes it can take -- It can take a while," said Newcomb. "That’s a lot of money, so I’m hoping that when they do disperse it, they disperse it to the smaller towns too."
Newcomb says she hopes the money will be dispersed fast, as the wait can lead to problems.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.