Can't pay your rent? Utah has $180 million available in rental assistance

FILE: A "For Rent” sign in Salt Lake City is pictured on
Friday, April 9, 2021.

FILE: A "For Rent” sign in Salt Lake City is pictured on Friday, April 9, 2021. (Annie Barker, Deseret News)



WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden's administration on Thursday extended the nationwide moratorium on evictions for renters who are unable to pay their rent during the pandemic — but federal officials warn it's expected to be the last time.

Less than a week before it was scheduled to expire, the eviction moratorium end date was extended from June 30 until July 31. The CDC said "this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium," the Associated Press reported.

Fearing Utah could see a "wave of evictions" once the eviction moratorium lifts, Utah housing advocates want renters to know there's still a significant chunk of government funding available for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

How much? About $180 million in rental assistance, according to Christina Oliver, director of Housing and Community Development for the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

"We have a significant amount," Oliver said at a Salt Lake City news conference earlier this month to raise awareness about the upcoming eviction moratorium expiration, previously expected for the end of this month. At the time, they did not know whether the federal government would extend the moratorium.

She urged Utahns struggling to pay their rent to not wait, but to seek help as soon as possible — before, not after, they get slapped with an eviction notice.

"When the eviction notices, for instance, are laying on your table, that's too late," she said. "It's not necessarily completely too late, but really take a proactive approach to ensuring that you have a safe and secure home."

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, during a news conference on Wednesday, joined the calls for struggling Utah renters to seek assistance.

"The expiration of the federal moratorium does not mean that the need for housing support has ended — far from it," Mendenhall said. "Fortunately, the city and state still have rent and mortgage relief programs in place to help our residents remain in their homes, giving them needed stability as they get back on their feet."

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Through the pandemic, about 7,600 Utahns have received rental assistance, totaling about $23.5 million, Oliver said.

"We really do want to encourage people who are on the fence about requesting assistance to just get online — it's a very quick application, it won't take much of your time — and see if it can help you," she said, directing Utahns to the site rentrelief.utah.gov.

An estimated 16,000 Utahns are at risk of eviction or foreclosure, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Out of concern of "a wave of evictions," Francisca Blanc, advocacy and outreach coordinator with the Utah Housing Coalition, urged renters to be proactive, communicate with their landlords and communicate with property management well before the situation progresses to an eviction.

"We know that rent eats first," Blanc said. "You've got to pay your rent. But at the same time, you need to have food on your table and you need to be able to have gas to pay for transportation.

"So, bottom line is we're concerned that we're going to see quite a few evictions with the moratorium expiring, and we want to make sure that as organizations we're doing everything we can to get the word out," she said. "There is money. Really, there is a lot of money to be used for rental assistance and for security."

Resources for Utah renters struggling to pay their bills

  • Emergency rental assistance: For renters who are unable to pay their rent and utilities due to circumstances related to COVID-19, apply at rentrelief.utah.gov. You'll need proof of income like a tax return, a rental agreement, documentation of payment history and an explanation of how COVID-19 led to a reduction in income.
  • Other rental assistance and case management: Contact Community Action Agency at rentrelief.utah.gov/contacts in your county or region to access other sources of rental assistance. Live in Salt Lake City? There could be a program for you: Contact Salt Lake City's Housing and Neighborhood Development department for help. Call 801-353-7712, or visit the city's website at slc.gov/hand.
  • Renter-landlord mediation: If talking or writing to your landlord isn't working, try mediation. For the Salt Lake Valley or Tooele, call Utah Community Action's Landlord-Tenant Mediator at 801-214-3109. For Summit and Wasatch Counties, call Mountain Mediation Center at 435-336-0060. For other Utah locations, call Utah Dispute Resolution at 877-697-7175.
  • Housing authorities: Your local housing authority may be able to help you. Find a list of local housing authorities on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's website at hud.gov/states/utah/renting/hawebsites.
  • Know the law: Arm yourself with information about the law and how eviction works in Utah. Know the law around anti-discrimination and fair housing. Utah's Fair Housing act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, source of income, familial status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • Get legal representation: Contact People's Legal Aid at plautah.org or call 801-477-6975, or contact Utah Legal Services at utahlegalservices.org. Get help paying your power bill: Rocky Mountain Power customers can request bill payment assistance by calling 1-888-221-7070. The state of Utah also has a program called the Home Energy Assistance Target (HEAT) program to provide year-round energy assistance for low-income households throughout Utah. Apply by calling 1-866-205-4357.
  • Get help paying your internet bill: A federal program called the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) helps households struggling to pay for internet services during the pandemic. The program also seeks to connect eligible households to jobs, health care and virtual classrooms. Check eligibility online at getemergencybroadband.org.
  • Get help paying for food: Visit uah.org/COVID19 for help from Utahns Against Hunger.
  • Get help paying for medical bills: Contact Utah Health Policy Project for assistance signing up for health insurance through Utah Medicaid, CHIP or the healthcare.gov marketplace. The website is in both English and Spanish. For enrollment, call 801-433-2299.
  • Get mental health help: Contact NAMI Utah for support groups and education from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, with programs in both English and Spanish. Visit namiut.org/our-programs or call 801-323-9900. Get help for addiction: Contact Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness to begin your addiction recovery journey. Visit the Utah Department of Human Services' website to connect with a recovery group.
  • Get help for domestic violence: Contact the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, or call the 24-hour line at 1-800-897-LINK for free and confidential help and support for victims of domestic violence. If you're in immediate danger, call 911. Get help if you're disabled: Contact the Disability Law Center, a nonprofit to protect the rights of people with disabilities in Utah.

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Katie McKellar

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