Family Support & Well-being

Emergency Rental Assistance and Housing Vouchers FAQs

In the fourth chatathon, presenters provided an overview of the rental and housing assistance available through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). They also responded to questions about this assistance and additional supports available for families facing housing instability. Explore a summary of the Q&A from the live chat.

Q1. Do you have information about any rent plan for a person receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Families receiving SSI may be eligible for rental assistance if they experienced a financial hardship over the past 18 months or if their income is below a certain limit. Find rental assistance programs in your area on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website.

Q2. Are any of these resources for rental and housing assistance available in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, or Tagalog?

The CFPB Help for Homeowners and Renters webpage includes information about rental assistance programs in nine languages: Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Russian, Arabic, Haitian-Creole, and English

Q3. How can I find our local Continuum of Care (CoC)?

Find your local program through the Contact a CoC page on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Exchange.

Q4. Where can families get vouchers for housing?

Families can apply for Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) on HUD's Public Housing Agency (PHA) webpage.

Q5. Is there a program to help with deposits and one month's rent?

Local programs that provide rental assistance may also assist with deposits. Find rental assistance programs in your area on the CFPB website.

Q6. What program can assist with paying back-rent, rent and utilities, and other emergency rental help?

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) can help.

Q7. Are any of these options for assistance available to a parent or family member who has a previous felony?

People with criminal convictions are eligible for federal ERAP funds. State and local grantees are not allowed to impose additional barriers to accessing these funds, including by setting criminal background screening requirements.

Q8. Do housing vouchers provide subsidized rent and case management?

Case management services generally are offered to voucher holders, but the services are less intensive.

Q9. Are mixed-status households eligible for housing assistance or housing vouchers; specifically, households with individuals who do not have documentation?

Yes, as long as one person in a mixed status household is eligible.

Q10. Is immigration status one of the requirements for qualifying for rental assistance?

Immigration status restrictions vary based on individual program requirements. Generally, HUD-funded non-cash assistance and services that are considered "necessary to protect life or safety" are available to individuals and families regardless of immigration status. This is true as long as the regulations of the program do not require the provider to base assistance on the applicant's income or resources. For more information, see the HUD fact sheet.

Q11. Is immigration status a requirement for qualifying for public housing and housing vouchers?

Yes. To qualify for public housing and voucher assistance, including the Emergency Housing Voucher and Housing Choice Voucher programs, the individual must be a U.S. citizen/U.S. national or fall into one of the following categories of eligible immigrants:

  • Lawful permanent residents
  • Violence Against Women Act self-petitioners
  • Refugees and asylum seekers
  • Parolees
  • Persons granted withholding of removal/deportation
  • Human trafficking victims and certain family members who meet one of the following criteria:
    • T visa holders
    • Have a certification letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
    • Noncitizen minors who have received a Child Eligibility Letter from HHS

In these programs, if at least one member of the household is a U.S. citizen/U.S. national or has eligible immigration status, then the family can receive prorated assistance as a mixed status family. A minor who was born in the United States can be the sole eligible household member.

Q12. What program helps families apply for housing when a family's members do not have a Social Security Number (SSN)?

Find rental assistance programs in your area on the CFPB website.

Q13. How can a single senior person who is trying to move out of a situation where families are doubled up get housing?

A regional Area Agency on Aging would have the best resources for any senior.

Q14. Does Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) apply to senior citizens?

Yes. The ERA applies as long as the senior citizens meet the other eligibility requirements for their local program. Find rental assistance programs in your area on the CFPB website.

Q15. What can families do if they receive an eviction notice?

The CFPB provides helpful guidance on what to do when facing eviction.

Q16. There are empty housing units in our area, but families looking for housing are informed that there are no vacancies — while units remain vacant. What resources can be provided to address this issue?

Please try contacting HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO).

Q17. How long before families receive the benefits they apply for?

Local processes determine how fast families will receive benefits, and many systems are backed up. Generally, the benefits are distributed within one week of approval. There is no universal rule, however, on how quickly the check will be cut.

Q18. A family with two children under 8 years of age has received an eviction notice because they are not able to pay. The family has moved. Because they were evicted, the family does not qualify for a voucher, and they cannot find another affordable place to live. How can I help them?

Federal Emergency Rental Assistance funds can be used toward relocation expenses to a new home, as well as for prospective rent payments. These funds can help the family with the move. Past evictions do not preclude a family from applying for these funds. Find out more about keeping families in their homes on the U.S. Department of the Treasury website.

Q19. Which states haven't used their housing dollars?

You can track state expenditures on the Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Dashboard.

Q20. If a family needs rental assistance, does their situation need to be COVID-19-related?

Numerous pools of ERA money are available. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) allocations, a qualifying housing crisis must be due to COVID-19. Under ARP allocations, however, the crisis needs to occur only during COVID-19. If your community is releasing ERA-2 monies, the housing crisis does not need to be caused by the pandemic.

Q21. Does Family Promise assist people who are pregnant with their first child and experiencing homelessness?

Each local Family Promise Affiliate has different programming protocols. Many affiliates can serve mothers experiencing homelessness based on availability.

Q22. Must families have an eviction notice to receive assistance?

A family does not need an eviction notice for federal assistance. However, some communities may have added eviction criteria for prioritization.

Q23. Several resources in our area deny assistance because families do not have an SSN. How can we help these families?

The SSN question is optional. See if you can proceed with the application without entering the SSN.

Q24. Do Section 8 vouchers expire?

No, they don't expire if the renter is in good standing, which is why they are so tough to get.

Q25. Who should we contact if agencies are placing inappropriate barriers to rental assistance?

There is no formal complaint process for the federal ERAP. Contact your local legal services agency. Staff there can help challenge these barriers. If the barriers are discriminatory, a complaint could also be filed with your local or state fair housing or civil rights agency.

Q26. What is the difference between Metro Housing Assistance and Section 8?

There may be none. Metro Housing Assistance may be overseeing the HCVs or Section 8 programs.

Q27. Is a single parent who received earned income credit eligible for rental assistance?

Yes, that parent is likely within the income limits for ERA. Find rental assistance programs in your area on the CFPB website.

Q28. Can anyone assist me with helping a single mom get assistance with an emergency housing voucher? I'm completely new to this.

Your local CoC program distributes these vouchers.

Q29. Once people apply for housing assistance, how long before they know if they are eligible or if they will get the assistance?

That's a question we can't answer because every community is so different.

Q30. If someone asked for help last year, can that person ask for help again?

Yes. They can reapply.

Families Experiencing Homelessness

Q31. Are there HCVs for families experiencing homelessness?

Yes. You need to check with your local PHA or CoC to learn about local availability.

Q32. What services can you get if you are experiencing homelessness?

All communities are required to have in place a coordinated entry or access point that ensures all people experiencing a housing crisis have fair and equal access to services. You can call 211 to find out where your local access point is. Dialing 211 is a shortcut through the maze of HHS agency phone numbers. By simply dialing 211, those in need of assistance can be referred, and sometimes directly connected, to appropriate agencies and community organizations.

Assistance for Homeowners and Landlords

Q33. Is there assistance for homeowners behind on their mortgage payment?

Help for homeowners who are struggling to make mortgage payments can be found on CFPB's webpage.

Q34. Are landlords allowed to refuse rental relief program monies?

Yes. Landlords do have that right.

Q35. Must Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) money be paid back, or is it a grant?

HAF does not need to be paid back.

Q36. Is there any help for homeowners who are struggling to pay their taxes during the pandemic?

We have not seen financial assistance for exactly this purpose, but there should be a local Taxpayer Advocate service that may be able to help navigate payment challenges.

Q37. Is there help for landlords when renters stop paying their rent?

Some landlords can apply for rental assistance on behalf of their tenants. The CFPB can help you find rental assistance programs in your area.