Pandemic Rental Assistance: How to Apply

The economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic includes a mounting housing crisis, but there are some programs in place to help. For the millions struggling to pay rent or pay their mortgage, there are stimulus programs at the local, state and federal level designed to help. However, it may take some digging to find the specific program for your situation.

The U.S. government website has a centralized web page for finding rental assistance and affordable housing, with directories to various state websites for more specific programs. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a similar site, though neither is perfectly comprehensive for every single state. To be sure you're seeing all of your options, visit your state's government website as well. If you're looking for federal rental assistance under the new stimulus check bill, now is the time to apply.

The U.S. Treasury Department is scheduled to receive all of its new funding for rental assistance on Tuesday, Jan. 26, according to a report by Life Hacker. To be eligible, applicants must be renters who have experienced a reduction in household income due to COVID-19. Documentation proving you have been collecting unemployment benefits is a big help here.

Applicants must also demonstrate a risk of becoming homeless or housing instability without assistance. The Treasury says that it will prioritize applicants who are facing imminent eviction, and whose owed rent payments are in arrears. Finally, applicants must have a household income that is at or below 80 percent of the area median — a figure determined by the treasury department.

If you meet these criteria, the simplest way to apply for help is to contact your state's housing department with this information. For added simplicity, CNBC has published this spreadsheet from the National Low Income Housing Coalition with more details on each state and county.

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The federal government's moratorium on evictions still stands, and President Joe Biden is expected to extend it soon. However, this measure is not perfect, as it only applies to properties purchased with federal loans. According to the U.S. Census, more than 35 percent of adults in the U.S. say they face eviction or foreclosures within the next two months.

"While this is a critical start, these provisions will not end the eviction crisis and will not help all renters who desperately need rental assistance to protect their families from harm," law professor Emily Benfer told CNBC. In general, she recommended being honest with landlords and with state officials about your needs. She said: "If a tenant cannot pay the rent, they should provide the declaration to their property owner as soon as possible."