The city on Tuesday said it’s getting $21.8 million in emergency rental assistance money from the U.S. Department of Treasury, and it will make the money available for people who are struggling to pay for housing and utility bills during the pandemic.
Most of that money — 90 percent, or roughly $20 million — will be available for individual and family renters who earn up to 80 percent of the area median income and pay for things like rent and utility costs, according to a release from the city. That means a single-person household earning up to $54,950 can qualify, while a family of four making $78,500 could qualify as well.
The money will be administrated by the city’s Department of Housing Stability and is pending approval from Denver City Council, according to Chief Housing Officer Britta Fisher. She said the housing department will work with nonprofit organizations in Denver to distribute the money. Fisher said the remaining 10 percent of the federal money can be used by the city’s housing department to pay for services they provide to help people stay housed.
The money is part of a new federal program Fisher said “represents a major increase of federal funding brought to the table,” for cities like Denver. She said the city got $5.5 million in coronavirus relief funds from the federal government last year for rent and utility assistance.
Derek Woodbury, a spokesperson for the city’s housing stability department, said in an email the city has also spent about $2.5 million of its own money to help with rental and utility assistance. He said those local and federal dollars combined helped 2,332 households in Denver from March to December last year.
In order to qualify for the new federal dollars, homes will need at least one household member who, because of the pandemic:
- qualifies for unemployment or experienced a reduction in household income
- incurred a significant cost
- experienced a financial hardship
Households will also need to show a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability because of the pandemic.
Priority will be given to households with someone who has been unemployed for 90 days prior to the application for assistance, as well as households with an income at or below 50 percent of the area median income. That means up to $35,950 for a single-person household or up to $50,000 for a household of four.
Fisher said Tuesday the city’s still waiting for more instructions from the federal government about how money will be handed out. She noted that because of this, she’s not clear how many people will potentially benefit from the federal dollars. But she said because the new funding comes with new rules, people might be able to cover more expenses from a longer period of time.
To begin the process for obtaining the money, call 311 and select option 6. Fisher said that while the city is waiting for the money to be approved for spending, making the call helps start the process for getting aid from money the city already has available.
According to a release from the city, once you call, you will be asked some basic questions including providing an address. A local nonprofit partner will be assigned to help eligible callers. You will need to provide proof of household income, proof that you’re a Denver resident, proof rent and/or utilities due or are past due, and details about how COVID-19 has caused or contributed to your housing instability.
This article has been updated to clarify how the new money will be spent and the kind of money currently available in the city.