The Montana Department of Commerce reported Wednesday that the agency provided more than $51 million in emergency rent and utility assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
KGVO spoke to Housing Division Administrator Cheryl Cohen for more details on the numbers just released.
“We launched the Montana Emergency Rental Assistance Program a year ago yesterday and so over the past year we have helped over 6,800 Montana families with $51 million in rent and utility assistance,” began Cohen. “This is for Montanans who have experienced financial hardship due directly, indirectly or during the COVID-19 pandemic, and who are at risk of housing instability. So we’re thrilled to be able to serve the people of Montana and help them stay in their homes. »
Cohen said despite the fact that the number of COVID-19 infections has dropped significantly, the program is also helping families in Montana cope with the current inflation that is driving up the prices of almost everything.
“We are struggling like the rest of the country with inflation and rising food and fuel prices,” she said. “With the expanded version of the program we have now, we can serve families who are experiencing these types of inflation and financial hardship, and we have also increased the amount of assistance we can provide to public services, so that families who have an electric and a propane bill, we can now cover up to $500 per month per eligible utility, and that’s an increase of $300 per month. »
Since Missoula has virtually no vacant apartments or rentals, Cohen said there are funds available to help families find and rent an apartment.
“We are also able to use emergency housing assistance funds for what are called housing stability services,” she said. “This could include things like housing navigation, where someone who needs help can meet with landlords and ask for rental units. We work with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and our Human Resource Development Councils to provide these types of navigation, housing, case management, and stability services. So it’s definitely an option.
Cohen provided the eligibility requirements for emergency rent and utility assistance.
“You must be a Montana tenant,” she said. “So you have to demonstrate an obligation to pay rent. And you must have an income level at or below 80% of the median income, and we have a very helpful tool on our housing.mt.gov website. The family just needs to enter their household size and county to see their income eligibility, and then the family would need to have some sort of proof that they are at risk for housing instability. So it could be a pay or three day leave notice or a notice of late rent or utilities, an overdue utility bill or a notice of shutting down services public.
Those facing possible eviction can click here for help, while information about the Rent and Utilities Assistance Program can be found here.
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