PHOENIX - Rental assistance has expanded throughout Arizona, but some people are still unable to get the help they need.
It’s now been a week since hundreds of millions of dollars in rental assistance became available for Arizona renters and landlords - however, the state has only received 330 applications for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
With eviction moratoriums and massive job losses, there is a huge need out there for rental assistance, according to analysts, despite the limited applications so far.
This is federal money the state is divvying out to every county except for Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties. Those three are choosing to do their own assistance programs, which will launch soon.
Residents in the 12 more rural counties of our state, however, may not be aware this assistance exists.
Randi Rosen, a Pinetop resident, says she's behind on her rent by hundreds of dollars and would love to apply, but has had a tough time getting through.
Navajo County has only had 12 applications for the assistance program in the first week, according to the state. Rosen said she wasn't aware of the program until FOX 10 informed her about it last week.
"I’m the kind of person who pays rent on time every month, and I don’t want to have to call...and say, 'We’re going to be short because we have to pay more on the water bill or pay more on the gas bill,'" Rosen said.
The Department of Economic Security, which is distributing the funds, says it is working to further collaborate with county partners to make sure people are aware these funds exist.
Phoenix is hoping to launch its own rental assistance program on March 8th.
Joanna Carr with the Arizona Housing Coalition says, "It’s incredibly surprising because as far as we’re aware, so many people need this resource.
She says the money is desperately needed, but the issue might be a lack of awareness.
"Eviction judgments are stacking up and once the moratorium lifts, there’s going to be evictions moving through so we know there’s a need there for the rental assistance so I really believe it’s a case that we need to get the word out," Carr said.
Breaking down rental assistance applications by county
Of the 330 applications submitted to the state, the highest percentage of applicants were in Pinal (33%), Coconino (20%), Yavapai (15%) and Mohave (12%) counties.
The remaining applications included Cochise (7%), Navajo (4%), Gila (3%), Santa Cruz (2%), Graham (2%), La Paz (1%) and Apache counties (1%).
Greenlee County did not submit a single application as of March 3.
"As the more populated cities and counties in Arizona will be administering their own individual rental assistance programs, the State program is limited to primarily rural communities," the Dept. of Economic Security said in a statement. "We will continue to provide communication and outreach to the areas we serve, and further collaboration with our county partners to ensure individuals in need are aware of the availability of the program."
How payment assistance works
"DES will authorize an eligible household’s need up to $3,500 per month for combined rent and utility assistance. Arrears balances dating back to March 2020 will be given priority. Future assistance will be authorized in three month increments. Assistance is available for a maximum of 15 months."
The DES website states eligibility is based on the renter's address and ability to meet the following federal criteria:
- Risk of homelessness, housing instability, or unsafe living conditions demonstrated by an eviction notice, utility shutoff notice, past due rent notice, past due utility notice, any other evidence of unsafe or unhealthy living conditions or housing instability
- The renter or member of the renter’s household is eligible for unemployment insurance benefits or has experienced a financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
- The renter’s household income is less than or equal to 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI)
How to apply
At des.az.gov/ERAP, the portal will be available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Applicants can apply and check the status of their application on the website.
During the application process, renters will need to provide:
- Copy or lease/rental agreement
- Photo ID
- Electric and/or gas bill
- Disconnection notice (if any)
- Proof of income
- Eviction notice (if applicable)
- Proof of hardship, such as a termination letter
Similar programs in larger cities
According to the DES website, "Several large counties and cities, including Maricopa County, Pima County and Yuma County, are receiving funding directly from the federal government. Those counties plan to launch their own rental assistance programs, which will be separate from this Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) program."
Renters residing in areas outside of the locations listed above can contact the following cities and counties for more information on their rental assistance programs:
- Pima County: tucsonpimaep.com
- Tucson: tucsonpimaep.com
- Yuma County: wacog.com/a-hand-up
- Phoenix: (602) 534-AIDE or phoenix.gov/humanservices/programs/emergency
- Glendale: glendaleaz.com/cap
- Chandler: azcend.org/community-action-program
- Mesa: mesaaz.gov/government/mesa-cares
- Gilbert: gilbertaz.gov/covid19
- Maricopa County (all cities besides Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale, Chandler, Gilbert): maricopa.gov/helpwithbills
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