(Freep photo)

A group of nonprofit organizations that help people with rent and utilities, have created a new website where Wayne County residents can apply for rent aid through a new statewide program to distribute federal funds to keep people in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Eligible renters and landlords can apply online through the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency at www.waynemetro.org/ceraapp for the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance, or CERA, program to get back rent payments and help with utilities and internet bills.

The new program comes two weeks before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on evictions is slated to end March 31.

CERA replaces a $50 million rent aid program that ended in December. In the gap between the end of that last program and the start of a new one, roughly 4,000 people across Wayne County sought rental aid, according to Wayne Metro. On Monday, the first day of Wayne Metro’s website launch, the organization saw 500 new applications for rent assistance. Partners in the website include Lakeshore Legal Aid, Heat and Warmth Fund and United Community Housing Coalition. 

The CERA program can provide up to 12 months in past-due rent, and up to three months for future rent and utility assistance. Internet stipends may also be available. Both tenants and landlords can apply for the program. 

To qualify, households must have an income below 80% of the area median income, or AMI. That translates to less than $44,000 for a one-person household in Wayne County. Renters must prove that they experienced a COVID-19-related hardship after March 13, 2020 and demonstrate that they’re at risk of housing instability by showing a past due utility or rent notice. 

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority, also known as MSHDA, which is administering the new program through housing agencies across the state, said last week renters in the eviction process will be prioritized because of the approaching moratorium expiration, although people will still have the option to submit applications. 

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MSDHA plans to launch a website late March or early April where renters and landlords can begin an online application process and then be paid by their local housing agency. 

Until then, Wayne County tenants and landlords can apply online through a separate interim application www.WayneMetro.org/ceraapp/ or go to www.WayneMetro.org/cera/ for more information. People can call 734-284-6999 for help with the application. 

The City of Detroit is directing people to go to DetroitEvictionHelp.com, which includes a link to the Wayne Metro application. People can also call the Detroit Eviction Helpline at 866-313-2520 for additional assistance. 

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at bit.ly/freepRFA.

Contact Nushrat: nrahman@freepress.com; 313-348-7558. Follow her on Twitter: @NushratR. Sign up for BridgeDetroit’s newsletter. Become a Free Press subscriber. 

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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