(DailyDig.com) – Social Security recipients struggling to meet housing costs through the pandemic and this highly inflationary period may be eligible for emergency government assistance to catch up on rent or mortgage payments.
Congress allocated more than $46 billion for emergency housing assistance through two stimulus programs, and about $30 billion had been spent or pledged by the end of February, meaning $16 billion remained available as of the latest report. Special programs also are available for renters in rural areas and for Native American renters.
While these programs provide a temporary, emergency fix, Social Security recipients who fall within the income guidelines for their community or neighborhood may be able to lower their monthly housing expenses through programs designed to address chronic housing challenges.
Emergency Rental Assistance programs
In 2021, Congress approved $25 billion for emergency housing assistance in the Consolidated Appropriations Act and another $21.55 billion in the American Rescue Plan Act. The money was distributed to state, local, territorial and tribal agencies that provide housing services to meet local needs.
The intent was to assist lower-income Americans who fell behind on rent, mortgage payments, or utilities during the pandemic and the uncertain recovery period. Lawmakers also wanted to avoid a surge in evictions and foreclosures once the federal moratorium on evictions was lifted.
The program also was set up so that Social Security recipients who receive assistance would not find that the benefit counted against their SS income limits, causing a reduction in monthly checks.
While funds remain for emergency housing assistance, the federal government has begun reallocating money from local districts without need to those with greater need. The government also expects the money to be depleted sometime during the summer, so those in need should not delay seeking assistance.
Because the funds were distributed through state and local agencies, there is no single location to apply for assistance. Those in need should contact their local housing agency or similar agencies to learn how to apply for emergency rent, mortgage, or utility assistance. State agencies that oversee housing services also can direct residents toward the proper agency to apply.
Federal housing assistance programs
Social Security recipients who find themselves struggling to pay rent, especially as rents are rising along with soaring inflation, might want to seek long-term assistance with their housing needs. The federal Housing and Urban Development agency provides benefits such as public housing and Section 8 assistance for renters on an ongoing basis.
HUD provides three types of housing assistance through local housing agencies:
- Public housing: These rental units are owned by the local housing agency and rent is on a sliding scale based on income.
- Subsidized housing: Certain landlords agree to work with the local housing agency to provide rental units. The renter pays a share of the rent and the agency pays the remainder as a subsidy.
- Housing vouchers: The Housing Voucher Choice Program (previously known as Section 8) provides the renter a voucher that can be used to pay a portion of the rent on an apartment they choose.
Eligibility for these programs is based upon where the individual’s income falls within the range of income in the community or region, plus what percentage of your income is going toward housing. This means individuals who live in areas with a higher cost of housing might be eligible even though their income might be higher. With rent costs rising dramatically in some areas of the country, this could be an important factor for individuals who rely on Social Security as their sole source of income.
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