Federal Funds Help Pay Rent And Utilities

There are $200 million in federal funds set aside to help Alaskans who are behind on their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stacy Barnes, Director of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, which administers the program, said that people can apply for help on paying their rent by applying on line at alaskahousingrelief.org.

According to Barnes, there is help for “those families that have been impacted either directly or indirectly by COVID-19 and they meet the income requirement, which is 80% of area median income. In the Bethel area that’s $45,520 a year. Those families may be eligible for this assistance.”

The deadline for applying for Alaska Housing Relief funding is Friday, March 5. Even if you have received rent relief from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation in the past, you may still qualify for this new federal assistance.

Barnes said that the program is designed to help pay both rent and utilities. The priority is to pay past-due bills, but also possibly meet current rent and utility needs. Barns said that those who have the most need will go to the front of the line.

“[The Federal] Treasury requires that we prioritize those who are at 50% of the area medium income,” said Barnes. “So that would be about $23,000 in your region. But it also prioritizes those who have been unemployed for 90 days or more as a result of the pandemic. The idea there is that those who are struggling the most are going to get the help first.”

State data indicates that more than 20,000 people have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Barnes said that the federal rent relief program also takes into account overcrowding and possible domestic violence issues when reviewing applications. She said that the state will start that review after the March 5 application deadline for the Alaska Housing Relief program.

To apply, go online to alaskahousingrelief.org. If you don’t have good access to internet or need help applying, Barnes recommends calling 1-833-440-0420, which is toll-free.

“And we have a call center, and operators are happy to answer any questions that people might have about the program, and you can actually also apply using the phone number,” said Barnes.

The federal program is limited to paying rent and utilities. Barnes said that it is not designed to help pay mortgages for property owners who are behind on their house payments.