Michigan Homeless response system calls on legislature to distribute rent relief

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH) is calling on the Michigan state legislature to disburse the $600 million sum from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 to help Michiganers pay rent and utilities for households that have fallen behind.

In a press release, the MCAH wrote:

“Each day that passes without these funds being appropriated by our state Legislature not only puts renters and landlords at risk of evictions, but also threatens Michigan’s ability to spend out the federally allocated dollars before they are lost to recapture.”

Congress is requiring that 65% of this original grant be distributed by September 20, 2021, at such time the federal government will recapture any excess funds that are unobligated.

In order to reach this 65% threshold deadline, Michigan will have to obligate over $50 million each month if the program were to launch by Monday, February 1.

If the state waits until March 1, that monthly amount increases to $60 million.

“Every day wasted could literally cost our state millions of dollars,” the MCAH release read.

Under the state’s Eviction Diversion Program (EDP), established in late 2020 and funded through the CARES Act, Michigan homeless service providers were able to allocate nearly $50 million in rental assistance funds.

This resource kept tens of thousands of Michiganders in their homes during the pandemic and has provided a lifeline for not only those who have lost employment to COVID-19, but also for landlords who rely on these rental payments.

And the program worked – eviction filings across the state were down 40% from August to October when compared to the previous year.

The staff of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) and homeless service providers throughout the state have built programming and infrastructure that has provided a strategic, coordinated response to the looming eviction crisis.

The need is there, the infrastructure is in place, yet the critical funding already appropriated by Congress is being held up unnecessarily by Michigan’s Legislature.

“By working closely with Washtenaw County, the Salvation Army, and the Eviction Diversion Program we were able to assist 44 families, all of whom were negatively affected by the pandemic, become eligible and receive funding to remain housed” said Stewart W. Beal, President of Beal Properties, LLC in Ypsilanti.

“Beal Properties is a mid-sized property management firm, but we manage many homes and apartments for smaller landlords that own just 1 or 2 properties. These funds were critical in keeping those landlords in a place where they could continue to pay the utilities, insurance, and maintenance on their buildings. The program is a critical win-win for both landlords and families alike.”

Being without a home is a traumatic experience with long-term consequences, and for the majority of at-risk Michiganders it is avoidable. It falls upon Michigan to take the action necessary to help keep families in their homes to avoid exposure to the harsh winter elements and prevent the additional spread of COVID-19. To date, 85% of households that have utilized the EDP assistance fall in the very-low income bracket (under 50% Average Median Income) and do not have the savings or safety net to support them without this short-term emergency help.

“Michiganders are struggling and are being put at-risk unnecessarily. This is a rare opportunity where we have the infrastructure, we have the funding, we have an understanding of the need, yet what is missing is a simple action by the Michigan legislature to release over $600 million in rental assistance through a perfunctory appropriations process,” said Eric Hufnagel, executive director at the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness.

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