LANSING, MI – A multi-billion dollar program that provides rent and utilities to Michiganders is coming to an end.
The application period for the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program (CERA) closes on June 30 at 9 p.m. Assistance is provided until funding runs out.
“Right now, we’re just trying to beat the drum to get everyone to apply,” said Kelly Rose, Chief Housing Solutions Officer for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
Applications can be found at: Michigan.gov/cera†
During the pandemic, Michigan received about $1.1 billion in federal dollars to help prevent evictions. About $622 million came from the Consolidated Appropriations Act passed in December 2020, and another $493 million followed last year with the American Rescue Plan Act.
Since CERA launched in March 2021, Rose said it has brought stability to housing construction for about 143,000 Michiganders and allayed concerns.
“One less burden for them and being able to not be so stressed about the daily choices many of them have to make,” Rose said.
On June 28, Michigan distributed nearly $800 million in CERA funding at the county level, including approximately $690 million in rental assistance, $62 million for electricity, $13 million for water, $14 million for heating, $649,000 for sewage and 10 million for other aid such as internet services.
There is still about $300 million in the fund.
Interest in the CERA program rose last fall after a nationwide ban on evictions was lifted in August. During an October peak, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority saw about 5,000 applications per week.
The number of applications fell after November 2021, but rose again in June by about 9,000 per week, according to Rose.
“Very low-income families are assisted by this program, and that’s basically what it’s designed for: to help those families get through what COVID threw at them,” Rose said.
Nearly two-thirds of CERA recipients earn less than 30% of the area’s median income, according to a national dashboard†
Only renters who earn less than 80% of the area’s median income and have experienced an economic hardship from COVID-19 are eligible for the program. Households that are homeowners, land contract holders, or people living in commercial real estate are not eligible.
Rose said it could take several months for the remaining applications to be processed, depending on the province.
“Some of them have virtually no backlog and once the application is submitted they look at it the next day and start reviewing it,” she said. “So those service bureaus will probably finish processing all their requests sometime in August. Others, such as Detroit, are somewhat behind schedule and will likely process applications until October or November.”
All applications submitted before June 30 will be considered, but funding is not guaranteed.
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