The COVID-19 pandemic affected local families in a multitude of ways, one of which was loss of income.
In the blink of an eye last March, otherwise financially stable households were suddenly out of work and searching for ways to keep their families fed and a roof over their heads
They were covered in the beginning with unemployment and stimulus checks that aimed to help them keep their heads above water but as the pandemic continues and debt piles on, these families are still in need of assistance.
And that’s where the COVID Emergency Rental Program (CERA) comes in.
This free program, which is part of the Coronavirus Relief Package funded by the U.S. Department of Treasury, is open to all Michigan residents to help those who have been unable to pay rent and utilities after the start of the pandemic on March 12, 2020, avoid eviction and ensure landlords get the rent they are owed.
According to Julie Hintz, the program manager overseeing the CERA Program for Macomb Community Action, eligible families can receive up to 12 months of rent assistance and up to $2,500 in assistance with utilities, which can be used for current bills or future debts.
This money can also be used to cover court costs up to $150, late fees up to $400 or as an internet stipend up to $300.
“COVID has impacted families in many ways and this program is one way to help address the financial impact of COVID for both tenants and landlords,” Hintz says. “The challenges people have faced are varied and unique — some families have faced challenges due to interruptions of work due to illness or quarantines, while other families have had increased expenses due to medical bills, increased need for child care, and funerals — the CERA Program will help keep people in their homes and increase their housing stability.”
Utilizing the program in Macomb County
The CERA Program in Macomb County is currently being administered by the Macomb Community Action and the Macomb Homeless Coalition.
Tenants and landlords in Macomb County (and all of Michigan) can apply for the aid via the online application on the State of Michigan website.
Once an application is submitted, it will be reviewed by the Macomb Community Action and the Macomb Homeless Coalition for eligibility. Those who are eligible will then be sent information and next steps.
Eligibility is based on the following criteria:
- Qualifies for unemployment or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experience a financial hardship due to COVID-19;
- Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability by being past due on rent or utilities; and
- Has a household income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income, which is $69,150 for a family of five in Macomb County.
Renters do not have to be facing eviction for CERA but must be past due on rent or utilities to qualify. Those facing eviction caused by hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic can find legal services through Lakeshore Legal Aid.
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