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Millions of dollars in rental relief available for Utahns

(Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, left, discusses emergency rental assistance during a press conference outside of the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 15, 2021. Annie Barker, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – An injection of funds is now available for rental relief in Utah because of the global pandemic.  The federal government has sent $215 million to the state, and officials are encouraging everyone who thinks they might need help to apply. 

This isn’t the first time Utahns struggling with housing costs have been able to get federal funding.  The state approved rental assistance for people who qualified last May, but payments really picked up between August and December.  Now, not only is the state getting more money, but Department of Workforce Services Executive Director Casey Cameron says that money can be used for more than just rent.

“They can cover different housing costs, including current, future and past due rent, eligible fees, security deposits, utilities, internet and other energy costs,” Cameron says.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall says many of her city residents were already struggling with housing costs before the pandemic began.  She says about half of the city residents are renters, and about half of them are “housing compromised,” which means they’re paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent.  She believes this amount of financial relief can go a long way to secure housing for people who need it.

“The rental assistance here is going to bridge the gap while we recover as individuals, as families, as communities and as a statewide economy,” Mendenhall says.  “It’s not the only solution, but it’s a fundamental and critical one.”

Officials say people are eligible if they have a combined household income at or below 80 percent of the area median income, if they qualify for unemployment, had a reduction of income or took on significant costs due to the pandemic and are “experiencing housing instability.”  Mendenhall says everyone should reach out to their loved ones to encourage them to apply.

She says, “Imagine being able to look them in the eye and say, ‘We have you. We have help for you.’”

Elected leaders are also praising the state’s new website, which they call a one-stop shop for rental relief.  Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson says this website will make it much easier for people get help because they lost work.

“We know that restaurants, if they’re still running, have not been able to run at capacity.  That means fewer shifts for a bartender or a waitress,” Wilson says.

Renters can apply for themselves, or landlords can apply for assistance for their tenants.

 

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