As announced last week, the DES Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) expanded access to Utility-Only Assistance to the entire state. Now available in all fifteen counties, renters who need assistance with current or past-due utility bills can apply through DES, providing another opportunity for individuals to receive the support needed to keep their air conditioning running as extreme heat pervades much of the state. Renters in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma County also have the option to apply for utility assistance through their local city or county program, as well as through their local Community Action Agency.
Since the expansion was announced on June 16, 2021, nearly 3,900 households have applied for Utility-Only Assistance, showing the incredible need within our communities for an additional resource. Utilities covered by this program include electricity, gas, propane, water and wastewater, sewer, and garbage collection.
DES Serves More Households
DES launched ERAP in February 2021 to support renters in counties outside of Maricopa, Yuma and Pima. Local jurisdictions within those three counties have launched their own programs to provide rent and utility assistance to eligible applicants. Since that time, over $7 million has been dispersed to Arizonans through DES.
This week, DES updated the program to align with new guidance released by the U.S. Treasury.Under this new guidance, government agencies will distribute rental assistance if the landlord does not respond within five days. Landlord participation has been a persistent obstacle in ensuring renters in need receive this support. DES makes three attempts to contact the landlord during those five days, and without a reply, the Department will issue a payment to the renter and will notify the landlord accordingly. This program is critical to keeping Arizona families in their homes while the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic lingers.
ERAP Provides an Essential Lifeline for Families
The impact rental and utility assistance can have on a family cannot be overstated. For example, the Miller Family’s home cleaning business was brought to a halt by the COVID-19 pandemic as their clientele followed social distancing guidelines and limited access to their homes. To keep their heads above water, the Millers burned through their savings for months before they found out about ERAP.
“Getting assistance has done more than I can imagine for our family,'' said Marissa Miller. “We were terrified as to what our fate would be prior to this.” The Millers’ landlord informed them of the program and how to begin the application process. Marissa said that the process was easy, and after her application, her landlord was contacted to provide their information.
At first, the Millers thought they were only going to receive a few hundred dollars--not unwelcome support, but not quite the solution to all their problems. They did not expect the full amount of their bills to be covered.
When asked what other people should know about ERAP, she said, “It was such an easy process to go through. I want other people to get that help, too. If I knew it was going to be like this, I would've done it a lot sooner.”
Read the Millers’ full story here.
Programs like ERAP help those who were financially devastated by the pandemic to get back on track and move forward with their lives. By expanding our services, we are that much closer to rebounding from the pandemic and helping Arizona return stronger.