Washtenaw County urges residents to apply for rental assistance as soon as possible

Don’t think you’re eligible? Apply anyway, say county officials

Set of keys inside a door. (Pexels)

ANN ARBOR – COVID Emergency Rental Assistance is currently available for residents to help pay rent, utilities and Internet.

Washtenaw County officials said they have seen an increase in applications since the Supreme Court blocked an extension to the federal eviction moratorium on Aug. 26.

Counties across Michigan have millions of federal funds available to help those who are behind on rent, people just have to apply, said Director at Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development Teresa Gillotti.

“We’re not expecting to run out of funds and really want people to get their applications in,” said Gillotti.

She said the county has already spent $4 million in support of local families and that her office received more than 2,500 applications as of Sept. 8.

Who’s eligible?

Residents who make 80% or less of the average median income in Washtenaw County are eligible to receive the benefits.

“Washtenaw county has one of the highest median incomes in the state,” said Gillotti. “If people are worried at all if they’re going to qualify or not qualify, then do apply. If you’re above income, we do have other programs. Don’t have any hesitancy.”

Eighty percent of the median income in Washtenaw County, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):

  • One-person household: $55,950
  • Two-person household: $63,950

The state of Michigan has roughly $500 million in federal funds to use for the CERA program. If the state doesn’t hit its goal of spending 60% until Sept. 30, it may face having to return those funds. To date, Michigan has spent $200 million in CERA funding -- about 32% of the state’s allocation. Only three states nationwide have hit the 60% spend goal.

“Even though the federal funds were released quite some time ago, the challenge has been up to the state and municipalities to get the word out,” said Ann Arbor city councilwoman Linh Song (D-Ward 2). “There are folks that are ready to help renters get their applications in and advocate with them and explain how they can qualify. There’s some assumption that this funding is for very low income renters when that’s not actually the case.”

The application is offered in Spanish and Arabic and agencies like SOS Community Services and Housing Access for Washtenaw County are actively helping people apply.

For eligible residents, the funds can cover back rent and up to 15 months of rent moving forward. Additionally, once an application is in, an automatic 45-day stay is activated, temporarily shielding renters from eviction as they await their court date.

“It’s been a long, long year and this money has been available and I’d love to see renters apply for it,” said Song. “It would help folks so much, like with the cost of child care and loss of wages impacted by COVID.”

Gillotti said if residents do decide to apply, it’s important they show up in court and not move out of their unit.

“You want to make sure you stay in possession to keep your lease, especially as you’re waiting for this to proceed,” she said.

Gillotti said that a majority of landlords have been willing to work with the county for the funds and that there will be additional funding available in 2022 as well.

For more information and to apply for CERA, click here.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.