Michigan’s rental assistance program will soon stop accepting new applications

A statewide program to help families catch up on rent payments and avoid evictions will stop taking new applications after the end of the month.

City officials encouraged Detroiters to apply for the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program — also known as CERA — before the June 30 deadline and outlined resources available to residents after federally funded assistance ends.

The program has allowed 19,000 Detroit families to stay in their homes, Mayor Mike Duggan said at a press conference Wednesday.

“We knew it was a short-term program and it did what it was supposed to do. It gave people interim rent, help with utilities while they were in lockdown, but today people are basically back to work,” Duggan said.

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Through CERA, $159 million in federal assistance has been paid to tenants and homeowners in Detroit since March 2021.

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) – which is responsible for administering the $1.1 billion program that has been in place for just over a year – said it will continue to process applications until until all funds are exhausted.

Those who have already completed a CERA application should verify their status, but should not reapply as it can slow overall processing time, said Julie Schneider, acting director of the city’s Department of Housing and Revitalization.

They should also check their inbox for any emails from MSHDA regarding an incomplete application or other important communications, Schneider said.

Duggan outlined a three-pronged plan for the help available after the program ends. This will include attorneys for Detroit residents in court facing eviction, potential placement through a city program, and help getting into an emergency homeless shelter.

A trio of organizations — the United Community Housing Coalition, Michigan Legal Services and Lakeshore Legal Aid — and private attorneys have provided free legal advice to 16,000 Detroiters facing eviction since August 2020, Duggan said.

Detroit residents with eviction cases in district court will continue to be paid by attorneys as the city’s new Right to Counsel program rolls out later this year, a- he declared.

“The most important thing to remember is for tenants – that they come to court if they receive an eviction notice,” even if they have applied for CERA and have already received other assistance, said Ashley Lowe , CEO of Lakeshore Legal Aid.

Lawyers can also talk to tenants about their rights to vouchers, subsidized housing, and home repairs and inspections, she said.

Those in need of immediate shelter can contact the Coordinated Assistance Model, or CAM, which is the main entry point for people facing homelessness in the city to get help. The best way to reach housing specialists is to come to the CAM offices at 1600 Porter St. in Corktown in person or call 313-305-0311. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Detroit residents looking for work can also apply for the city’s “Quick Jobs” program that connects residents with immediately available jobs. There are currently more than 12,000 vacancies, Duggan said.

People who have already been placed in these jobs earn more than $16 an hour, said Dana Williams, director of strategy for Detroit at Work.

For more information, go to www.DetroitEvictionHelp.com or call Detroit at Work at 313-962-9675.

Here’s a rundown of what to know about the CERA program as it winds down:

What is the CERA program?

The program provides up to 18 months of rental assistance to qualified applicants who faced economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. It can also be used to help pay utility bills. Applicants must be below 80% of the region’s median income. In other words, a Detroit single-family home must have an income of $50,150 per year or less to qualify. Applicants must also show proof of financial hardship since the start of the pandemic, such as qualifying for unemployment or having an overdue rent notice.

When will the program stop accepting applications?

New CERA applications will not be accepted after 9 p.m. on June 30. Detroiters who have not yet applied have until then to apply. This can be done by going to the CERA website at https://ceraapp.michigan.gov. Funds will continue to flow to those approved until Sept. 30 or until aid runs out, depending on the city.

Those who need additional help can go to www.DetroitEvictionHelp.com or call the Detroit Eviction Helpline at 866-313-2520.

Detroit residents can check the status of their application by going online to the CERA website. They should also check their inboxes as MSHDA sent out emails the week of May 30, city officials said.

They must ensure that they have completed their application as an incomplete application will not be accepted after the deadline.

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

Contact Nushrat: [email protected]; 313-348-7558. Follow her on Twitter: @NushratR. Sign up for the Bridge Detroit newsletter. Become a subscriber to Free Press.

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