FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29, 2021
SOS provides emergency funds to prevent evictions due to pandemic-related financial hardship.
Mary* missed work for three months this winter when she got sick with coronavirus. Her daughter was sick with the virus too. Now they have recovered and Mary has returned to her receptionist job.
But Mary only earns enough to pay her rent this month. She does not have a way to pay the rent for the three months when she was not working. Her landlord is threatening to evict her.
Thousands of people in Washtenaw County are like Mary. They are facing eviction because of financial hardship caused by the pandemic.
SOS Community Services has partnered with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), Washtenaw County of Community & Economic Development (OCED), and Housing Access of Washtenaw County (HAWC) to provide COVID Emergency Rental Assistance to people like Mary in Washtenaw County.
The COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program was launched by MSHDA in March. MSHDA plans to help 50,000 to 55,000 households statewide with rental assistance so they can avoid eviction due to pandemic-related hardships. Funds are administered through local nonprofits – including SOS Community Services – who work with tenants and landlords to process applications and resolve as many eviction filings as possible.
So far, SOS has received 470 applications for COVID Emergency Rental Assistance. Many local people are desperate for help. SOS receives calls every day from people who want to know the status of their CERA applications.
Renters who are earning 80% of the area median income or less are eligible for assistance through the CERA program.
“People can apply if they have been impacted by COVID. Maybe they lost their jobs or lost child care. Some got behind on rent when they became sick with COVID and missed several weeks of work,” said Rhonda Weathers, SOS’s Executive Director.
Job loss and missed work can quickly lead to eviction for many people. According to United Way’s ALICE report, 40% of people in Michigan live paycheck to paycheck with no savings to pay bills when they lose their jobs or get sick. The pandemic has caused thousands of people to miss paychecks during the last year because of widespread sickness and job loss.
The Centers for Disease Control and other government entities established moratoriums on eviction during the pandemic to prevent a sharp increase in homelessness. Now, those moratoriums will August 1. But many people owe thousands in back rent and overdue utilities. Their credit has been destroyed by mounting bills they are unable to pay. These people need help now to avoid eviction and homelessness.
“Right now people want to get back to work. But if they get jobs that only pay enough to get by week to week, they will have no way to catch up on overdue rent and utility bills from the last year. They could still get evicted. The CERA program is designed to prevent evictions due to the financial hardships of the pandemic,” said Weathers. “The CERA program will help people get
back on track.”
SOS has hired twelve new staff members to process the influx of applications. People may apply for assistance with rent or utility bills. People who qualify for CERA assistance may visit ceraapp.michigan.gov to apply.
*Name changed to protect confidentiality
SOS Community Services promotes housing stability and family self-sufficiency through collaboration, care and respect. Our services include shelter and rapid re-housing, job development, eviction prevention, and Parents as Teachers. In addition, SOS offers a Resource Center that provides a weekly food pantry and walk-in services including utility and transportation assistance. For more information about SOS Community Services, including opportunities to volunteer and donate, please visit www.soscs.org.