If you need help paying rent today you are not alone. Thankfully, multiple programs are available to help you pay your monthly bills, including your housing costs. Certain government housing assistance programs help pay as much as seventy percent of your monthly rent in addition to your energy bill payments.
Most of these rental assistance programs are funded by the U.S. federal government. Some are state-sponsored, while others are facilitated by private charitable or religious organizations. Read more about places that help with rent and how to stay in your home during periods of financial hardship below.
All About the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Modern times have created significant financial issues for many individuals and households. These issues have led to the inability to pay for housing-related expenses including rent and utility bills. The issues are widespread, even though financial hardship might make you feel somewhat isolated. If you are experiencing challenges with paying your housing costs and energy bills, you are simply not alone, however.
Thankfully, government housing assistance and other bill assistance programs as follows are available to help:
1. Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
2. Rental Assistance Program (Section 8).
3. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Housing Assistance.
4. Buying Your Home with Section 8.
5. Find Rent and Utility Assistance from Charitable Organizations.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally sponsored assistance program designed to help qualified households pay energy bills. Not every household has the funds to pay for higher energy bills despite the need to do so to stay healthy and safe. LIHEAP helps you and your family through hard times when you need help the most.
Qualification requirements are different in each state. To meet LIHEAP requirements your household must fall within a certain income bracket. Each state determines what income bracket meets program criteria. If you are uncertain about your qualification status you must contact your local LIHEAP agency to obtain more information.
Generally, however, if you or your household already qualifies for one or more of the following, you likely also qualify for LIHEAP:
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps).
- Certain U.S. veterans benefits.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
LIHEAP is an ongoing program but the amount of funds available for recipients each year are not. The federal government funds the program by disbursing a predetermined amount of money to each state LIHEAP agency. Each state agency subsequently disburses those funds to qualified recipients. Please note: No LIHEAP funds are disbursed directly to qualified households. Utility companies receive the direct payments instead. If LIHEAP does not cover your entire bill, you will be required to pay the outstanding balance. Payment plan options might be available depending on each utility provider.
In addition to helping with energy bill payments, LIHEAP also helps pay for expenses pursuant to:
- HVA maintenance and repairs.
- Weatherization and energy-efficiency improvements to your home.
- Prevention of utility turn-off notices (energy crisis assistance).
What was formerly Section 8 is now the Housing Choice Voucher Program. This federally operated U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rental assistance program is designed to supplement a portion of monthly rent payments for qualified households. The primary purpose of the program is to provide help with rent to low-income households where qualified occupants have qualifying disabilities. Seniors, individuals and entire families might qualify for this program. Beneficiaries are permitted to participate in the selection of their homes as well, provided the landlord is Section-8-friendly and the buildings are inspected and approved by HUD.
Enrolling in this program begins with submitting your application to your local Public Housing Authority (PHA). Federal funds are disbursed to each PHA, which subsequently disburse them to applicable landlords. Up to seventy percent of your rent is paid through this program, depending on the severity of your disability and combined household income. Your preference of HUD houses for rent must be approved by HUD prior to submitting your application.
Additional qualification requirements for this program include:
- U.S. citizenship of legal residency status.
- Living in the same state where your PHA operates.
- Meeting HUD income threshold criteria.
An alternate rental relief program is available to U.S. veterans. This program is similar to Section 8 but has specific differences and requirements pertaining to your U.S. military service status and any related disabilities. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) joined forces to create the HUD-VASH program. This renters relief program for veterans helps those who served the country by providing assistance with housing assistance and the challenging transition back to civilian life.
HUD-VASH vouchers function in the same way Section 8 vouchers function. A portion of monthly rent is covered for approved veteran recipients. Healthcare resources are also provided. This is especially important for veterans suffering from service-related behavioral, mental or medical health issues. Self-sufficiency and societal assimilation are also prioritized through behavioral health services. HUD-VASH qualification requirements include:
- Applicants already qualifying for VA healthcare.
- Applicants already qualified as homeless as per the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
- Applicants meeting HUD regulations as per the applicable PHA.
Emergency help with rent is highly beneficial. You might also be permitted to purchase a home using Section 8 programs benefits. The Housing Choice Voucher (HVC) Homeownership Program was created to help low-income families become homeowners. To qualify for the HVC program you must already be a Section 8 rental assistance recipient. Applications are also submitted through the same local PHA where you previously applied for rental assistance. Each state and PHA has its own requirements as well.
Generally, however, qualification requirements include:
- You meet first-time homebuyer criteria.
- Your household income level is already approved for Section 8 rental assistance.
- You are employed full-time (exceptions are made for qualified disabled or senior applicants).
- You participate in an educational homeownership counseling program.
Please note: Some PHAs do not sponsor the HVS program. You might need to apply for pandemic rental assistance or other housing and utility bill programs if the HVC program is not available in your state or you do not qualify for Section 8. Continue reading the next slide to learn about different types of housing and energy bill assistance available through private charitable organizations.
Rental assistance stimulus is made available through U.S. federal and state government agencies. It is also made available through private charitable organizations including churches and other private entities. Section 8 housing is an excellent way to reduce your monthly rent prices but the waiting lists are competitive and approval time is generally long. Christian organizations and other churches in your area commonly offer assistance programs for housing and bill-paying purposes. Sometimes other non-religious private organizations also help those in need.
Qualifying for this type of assistance involves a different process in every area. General requirements to expect likely include the ability to verify your financial hardship, risk of homelessness and proof of residence in the area where the charitable organization operates. Funds for these types of programs are typically limited, which means applying for assistance quickly might make the difference between receiving it or not. Use the internet to your advantage as well. Organizations you might not have thought of are available and offering help during challenging times.
Please find below a list of helpful phrases to use online when searching for help with rent or paying other bills this year:
- Catholic Charities help with bills.
- Pandemic rent assistance.
- COVID-19 housing help.
- Homelessness prevention stimulus.
- Places that help with rent near me.
- Salvation Army help with rent.
- United Way housing assistance.
- Housing grants near me.