Spring is a great time for reviewing a household budget! In the U.S., the golden rule is to try to spend less than 30% of income on rent or a mortgage. There are lots of resources to help manage costs. A few places to start include the Homestead Exemption Act, https://www.maine.gov/revenue/faq/homestead-exeption-program) or MaineHousing Emergency Rental Assistance Program https://www.mainehousing.org/covidrent for help needed because of the pandemic. For free help filing taxes, consult CA$H https://www.(cashmaine.org.

We sat down with MaineHousing to ask a few questions.

Who is eligible for rent relief?

Tenant applicants must meet all these criteria for the program:
• Household income must meet certain income limits, which vary by location and household size. Limits are explained at mainehousing.org/covidrent.
• COVID-19 has led to difficulty making ends meet. Eligibility is determined by lost income, problems with money or extra bills, receipt of unemployment benefits any time after March 13, 2020.
• Difficulty paying rent or utilities
Can someone apply for funds to help just with utilities, even if they don’t need rent relief?
Yes, renters may apply for help paying for utilities even if they do not need help paying for rent. They will need to show past and current amounts due by providing a recent statement from the utility company/companies.

How does someone apply?
Go to https://www.mainehousing.org/covidrent. Scroll down to “Application.” Click the drop down menu and select the county of residence. Fill out the application and email it to the local Community Action Agency (CAA), which can be found by calling 2-1-1. Paper applications can be downloaded, printed, and mailed. Applications are available in many different languages. Mail completed applications to the local CAA or call MaineHousing at (800) 452-4668 and they will mail a paper copy to fill out.

What happens after I submit my application?
After submitting an application, the renter will receive information about next steps. Both the landlord and the applicant will be notified by email when the application is entered into the CAA system, when the application is approved for payment, or if the application is denied.
Maine’s CAAs run the local programs and are the primary points of contact for questions.

Is translation support available?
Yes! Call the local CAA and they can help. They can call an interpreter to answer questions or refer a renter to a team member for help filling out an application.

Do you have translated information about the program?
Yes! We have program information and applications in eight languages other than English: Arabic, French, Khmer, Lingala, Portuguese, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese. These are available for download on the website.
Spring cleaning can start by getting support for rent, mortgage, or utility expenses. Portland’s Office of Economic Opportunity is here to connect the dots!