Starting this week, Michiganders can get emergency COVID-19 rental and utility assistance through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
To be eligible, households must have an income below 80% of the area median income. They also must have experienced a COVID-related hardship, whether that's having qualified for unemployment or had a decrease in income. Other financial hardships and demonstrated risk of housing instability or experiencing homelessness also apply. Landlords or tenants may start the application.
The federal government gave the state $622 million to the state specifically designated for rental and utility assistance in the wake of COVID-19. The program, which launches this week, is getting $282 million of that money to begin with. The other $340 million will be appropriated by the Legislature at a later date.
Kelly Rose is the chief housing solutions officer at MSHDA. She notes that the money needs to be spent—or the federal government could take back excess funds.
"We will definitely be working feverishly to make sure we hit that 65% spending. I mean, ideally we would’ve started the program more than a month ago to give us a little more time to meet that deadline."
65%, or $405 million, needs to be spent by September 30. Republican lawmakers have said that they want to distribute this money in installments for oversight. Rose mentioned in February that this installment plan is "administratively burdensome" and that installments could make hitting the spending deadline more difficult.
Rose says the March 31 expiration date of the Centers for Disease Control's nationwide moratorium on evictions makes getting this money to tenants and landlords even more urgent.
"We will be working very closely and really prioritizing cases that have already been processed for eviction, especially cases that have already had judgments entered to try to get those cases paid before the eviction moratorium expires at the end of the month," she says.
Adding to that pressure, Rose says, is the uncertainty of whether the moratorium will be extended.
"If it does get extended, sometime they don't do that until literally the last day. Like maybe we find out on the 30th or 31st that it's getting extended." She adds, "So we've communicated with the service agencies to please work very closely with their legal services counterparts and their district courts so that those eviction cases are prioritized for processing here in the month of March to try and get as many of those cases paid as possible so we can avoid evictions."