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HomeBankWhat's the Rental Assistance Program and How Does it Work?

What’s the Rental Assistance Program and How Does it Work?

The Emergency Rental Assistance program was first introduced in December 2020, under the Consolidated Appropriations Act. This program, dubbed ERA1, provides up to $25 billion in funding to help out households that are struggling with rent and utility payments

The second phase of the Emergency Rental Assistance program or ERA2 was outlined in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This Act, which took effect in March 2021, added another $21.55 billion to the rental assistance funding pot. 

Both ERA1 and ERA2 offer rental assistance money directly to states, U.S. territories and local governments. The first incarnation of the Emergency Rental Assistance program also allows for money to be distributed to Indian tribes or tribally designated housing entities. 


Under the terms of the program, COVID-19 rental assistance includes financial help for:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Home energy costs, including electricity, gas, fuel oil, water, sewer and trash removal


You may also be able to get rental assistance to pay for other costs as a renter. Those can include:

  • Reasonable late fees that aren’t included in your rental or utility debt
  • Internet service to your home
  • Moving expenses and related fees if you have to move
  • Housing counseling
  • Case management
  • Legal representation
  • Other housing stability services

Since rental assistance programs are administered at the state and local levels, the benefits you might qualify for can vary based on where you live. 

Generally, the program allows eligible households to receive up to 12 months of assistance with rent, including overdue rent payments, dating back to March 13, 2020. But state or local rental assistance programs may allow you to bump that up to 15 or 18 months’ worth of rent. You don’t have to be behind on rent payments to apply. 



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