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Michigan still has more than $500 million for rental assistance. Here's where to apply for help.

Brandon Griggs at paralitik

The federal ban on evictions has expired, but people in Michigan can still get help paying their rent.

The state has more than half a billion dollars available through the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program, known as CERA.

More information, and an online application, is available at Michigan.gov/cera.

“We want more people to apply sooner than later,” says Gustavo Perez, CERA Program Manager for Kent County at the Heart of West Michigan United Way. “We don’t want people to wait until they get an eviction notice or a shutoff notice. We want them to know as soon as they get behind and are behind that they start applying now.”

A spokesperson for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority says $108 million in rental assistance spending has already been approved in the state, affecting about 16,600 households. Of that amount, $18 million has gone to Detroit residents so far.

But the majority of the money that’s been allocated to help renters hasn’t been used up. The state is still processing about 31,500 applications for help, but advocates say there’s still plenty of money for people who run into trouble.

In Kent County alone, Perez says well over $900,000 in rental assistance is being paid out per week, which is up from an average of less than $300,000 in assistance per week in May.

Perez says it can take up to seven weeks for an application for assistance to be approved.

"Get that application in as soon as you think that there’s a problem," says Karen Tjapkes of Legal Aid of Western Michigan.

That processing time could create trouble for some tenants, if landlords decide they don’t want to wait.

“And I think that’s what worries me most about the month of August,” says Karen Tjapkes, of Legal Aid of Western Michigan. “I think there’s going to be a fair number of those situations where the tenant is trying to get money and through no fault of their own, they’re just not getting through the process.”

Tjapkes points out that, under a Michigan Supreme Court order, tenants still have 10 days since the eviction moratorium expired before a judge is allowed to sign an eviction notice. And, tenants can get an additional stay on the eviction proceedings if they apply for assistance through CERA.

But, beyond that, landlords could still move to evict, even if the tenant has already applied for help.

All the more reason, Tjapkes says, for people to apply for help as soon as possible.

“Get that application in as soon as you think that there’s a problem,” Tjapkes advises. “You don’t have to wait for court. You don’t have to wait for a court judgment. And the faster you’re able to do that, the faster you’ll hopefully get through that application process.”

You can find more information on the CERA program on thestate’s website.

You can also find a full list of local agencies administering CERA here.

People who need help can also call 211 for more information on the program. 

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Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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