The COVID Relief Bill passed by Congress last month includes a substantial sum of money for rental assistance across the country. Which agency or organization will be tasked with dispersing Wyoming's cut has not yet been decided.
The bill includes $25 billion to be used exclusively for rental assistance. Wyoming will get $200 million, an amount several times larger than what the state committed to rental assistance in 2020 through the state's CARES Act Funding.
Eligible households are those making 80 percent or less of the area's median income. Applicants will have to demonstrate that they face financial hardship as a result of the pandemic and also a risk of homelessness or housing instability.
The new bill also extended the eviction moratorium through the end of January, although President Biden has extended the eviction ban further, through the end of March.
Dianne Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said the country's severe housing crisis predates the pandemic. Even before COVID, 10 million American households were spending half or more of their income on rent.
"So when you have such limited income to begin with, and you're paying so much of it for your home, you're always one financial shock away from missing rent, facing eviction, and in the worst cases, becoming homeless," Yentel said.
Awarded funds have to be used mainly for rent and utility payments and can be awarded either to tenants or to landlords on behalf of their tenants. The money can be used for future rent and utility payments or to cover missed payments from 2020.
"Rent has still been due during the eviction moratorium and recent estimates are that low income renters owe up to $57 billion in rent and utility arrears," said Yentel.
It's not yet clear what agency or organization will distribute funds in Wyoming or how Wyomingites can apply for the assistance, although the State Legislature might dictate this during their upcoming session.
Any of the $200 million that hasn't been spent by September will be redistributed to other states that have exhausted their allotted amount.