We opened Arkansas’s rental-assistance program this week, and today I’d like to talk about how we will help renters and landlords who are struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services will distribute $173 million in assistance through the Arkansas Rent Relief Program. That money is coming from the $25 billion the U.S. Department of the Treasury has allocated for this fund nationally.
The Department of Human Services began accepting applications on Monday, and the program will remain open through the end of this year. Payments will go to landlords, but a tenant and a landlord each must apply. The payments will cover 15 months of rent and utilities that were not paid from April 1, 2020, through December 31 of this year.
Of course, landlords must agree that they won’t evict a tenant before they can receive the money.
To qualify, a renter must be a resident of Arkansas and a U.S. citizen or legal resident with a current residential lease or rental agreement. Renters also must meet one of these three criteria to qualify for aid: Someone in their home qualifies for unemployment benefits; their household income decreased because of the pandemic; or someone in their home has incurred significant financial hardship because of the pandemic. In addition to meeting one of those three, the renter’s income must qualify for assistance.
The assistance will pay for unpaid rent going back twelve months and up to three months in the future, as well as utility bills and late fees. The money will not cover costs of telephones, cable television, internet access, or mortgage payments. All payments will go directly to landlords and utility companies.
You can learn more at ar.gov/RentRelief.
As of midweek, DHS has received 94 matched applications that are now under review, and more than 400 applications are awaiting a match.
We have other programs to help. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has $1.7 million left over from CARES Act funds, which has allowed us to extend the Winter Crisis Program. This will provide assistance for gas and electric bills up to $500 per qualified household. We will give priority to applicants who did not receive assistance during the initial Winter Program.
And DHS is also providing child care assistance for nearly 8,000 families of essential workers without regard to income.
No one has escaped the touch of the pandemic, and as much as we are able, we want to soften the blow for those who have suffered significant financial harship. These programs will help thousands of Arkansans regain their footing.