CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Family Services has set aside $5 million from the federally funded Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) for grants to counties and nonprofits for local, in-person application assistance and housing stability services.
Wyoming received $200 million in federal funding to help eligible Wyoming renters struggling to make rent and/or utility payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to adhere to new federal guidelines, Wyoming has revised the distribution of ERAP funding: $180 million for direct financial assistance for rent, utility, and internet payments and housing stability services to eligible households; and $20 million for application assistance and administrative costs to set up and manage the program.
“We are developing a more flexible program, hoping for a more widespread reach to those struggling to keep a roof over their heads due to COVID,” Department of Family Services Director Korin Schmidt said in a news release. “Local, in-person application assistance, along with having housing stability services targeted to at-risk populations, are two valuable tools in helping ERAP become more accessible.”
Applications are scheduled to open online by the end of April. Eligibility requirements are available at dfs.wyo.gov/erap.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are more than 70,000 renter households in Wyoming, of which one in three are considered cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent.
The program has taken into account that renters might face barriers to using the new online application system, such as not having access to a reliable computer or the internet. Counties will receive funding to provide application assistance in their area.
Using a demographic-based formula, DFS has divided $2 million among the 23 counties. Depending upon the county, the application assistance will be handled either by the county government or a community-based nonprofit.
As part of the federal guidelines, a portion of ERAP funding is dedicated to providing housing stability services for eligible households in the communities. These services include providing legal, case management and mediation services to prevent housing displacement or living in unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
The Wyoming Department of Health’s Aging Division, Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and Legal Aid of Wyoming will receive $1 million each to provide housing stability services through their local provider networks.