Family, Kids & Relationships

How to Get Help with Your Rent and Bills During the Pandemic

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In the midst of the economic chaos and uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, families are finding themselves increasingly in need of financial assistance just to get by from month to month. A record number of Americans are out of work, and with the passing of another month many are faced with upcoming rent and bill payments. Understandably, the possibility of losing housing looms large on the list of stresses many families are facing.

To make matters more confusing, the country is currently a patchwork of different unemployment policies and emergency financial aid programs, on top of the widely differing stances on reopening the economy from state to state. With so many questions up in the air about how families will make ends meet until this crisis is over, parents need some reliable guidance about how to get assistance when they need it.

Most households have already received a stimulus payment from the federal government thanks to the CARES Act, passed into law at the end of March. However, many families remain in the dark about how that legislation protects them, if at all, from missed rent payments or eviction.

First, and most reassuringly, the CARES Act prevents landlords of federally-backed property from charging late fees or serving eviction notices to any tenant until at least July 25, 2020. Any eviction notices served on or after that date must provide 30 days of advance notice for the tenant to vacate the property. In other words, families have a couple of months to figure out their rent payments. ParentsTogether has pulled together some valuable resources and information for families who are concerned about paying their upcoming rent and bills.

  1. Rental assistance and low-income housing: The Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, is a department of the federal government that provides low-income housing and rental assistance to communities. Their rental assistance branch features a number of pathways to financial or housing support including public housing agencies, privately owned subsidized housing, and utility bill assistance.
  2. Housing assistance programs: The National Low Income Housing Coalition has a really helpful directory of housing assistance programs and policies listed by state. Just scroll down to your state, and you’ll find any information the organization has gathered about financial help with rent or mortgage payments. Some states are even broken down by city or county to give you a super local source of help when you need it.
  3. Essential services and financial assistance programs: Your local 211 is a valuable resource which can connect you with most of the programs in your area that assist with any basic needs or emergency financial support. Food banks, clothing donations, and free clinics are just a few examples of the things 211 can help with. You can find your local 211 information by searching your zip code or city at the top of their website.
  4. Emergency grants: GrantSpace is a huge public listing of emergency grants or loans that are offered based on your location, line of work, or circumstances. They have built an exhaustive list of grants that are specifically for those affected adversely by the pandemic and quarantine. Scroll down the list to see which ones you might be eligible for.
  5. Help delaying bills: We previously put together a list of tips and resources for getting assistance for other monthly expenses as well, including credit card bills, student loans, utilities, insurance and more.

Of course, each family’s situation is unique and complex, and some families may have routes they can attempt before turning to these resources. If there’s a cordial and trusting relationship with the landlord, it may be worth asking for an extension or a waiver for a month. If there’s an extensive support system around the family, that can also be a great source of help during this difficult time. 

Overall, it’s important to remember that there is help out there, and it’s ok to ask for it. Whether you’re able to work out a private arrangement with your landlord or personal support system, or you have to use multiple public services to stay afloat until the economy fully reopens, there are people out there to back you up.  

Mckenna Saady is a staff writer and digital content lead for ParentsTogether. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now lives in Philadelphia and writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature in her spare time.