Funds are still available to help local renters who need COVID-19 emergency help.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit local families hard and many households are still struggling with basic needs like food, rent and utilities. Lighthouse is partnering with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) to provide rent and utility assistance through MSHDA’s COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program. The federal rent aid program is designed to help tenants and landlords prevent evictions.
In just two months, Lighthouse distributed more than $1 million in CERA funds, helping nearly 300 people stay in their homes even while they’re struggling financially because of the pandemic.
“You can sleep better at night, you can wake up and not feel like the whole world is coming down, you can breathe,” said one local recipient of CERA funding who asked to remain anonymous. “You can actually take a step back and focus on what you’re going to do next.”
During the pandemic, her job in the beauty industry took a major hit. Social distancing restrictions cut back the number of days the business was open, and many clients stopped coming in. The recipient first connected with Lighthouse on a recommendation from her utility company because she was struggling to pay her electric bill. When she first heard about the program, she thought it was too good to be true.
“You just think that it’s far-fetched to think that somebody would be willing to help you for an extended period of time,” she said. “2020 and COVID was so unexpected that it set a lot of people back. I’m definitely thankful to get some help while I try to figure it out.”
A federal mortarium on evictions that was set to expire at the end of June was recently extended by the Centers for Disease control and Prevention one last time through July 31. That gives tenants more time to apply for the CERA program and funds are still available.
CERA serves renter households with incomes less than 80% of the area median Income and who:
• have qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the coronavirus outbreak; and
• can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability evidenced by a past due utility or rent notice
Applicants need to provide documentation of their financial situation. A full list of requirements can be found here on the MSHDA website. Click here to apply to CERA. The process only takes about 15 minutes!
Jessie Polito, Director of Emergency Services for Lighthouse, has seen the impact of CERA in the community firsthand. So many people have struggled to stay employed during the pandemic, stayed home to help children with virtual schooling, lacked access to PPE in hazardous jobs, or had shifts cut in industries with limited indoor capacity.
“People supported each other, covering costs for family members to keep each other afloat,” she said. “This program is designed to identify those who’ve been impacted by the pandemic and to help them recover and maintain housing. Lighthouse is here to assist the community in many ways and we are proud to be part of this program.”