AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine State Housing Authority officials do not expect to receive any additional funding from the U.S. Treasury for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
The program, known as ERA, came about during the pandemic for people struggling to pay rent or utilities who had been furloughed or laid off. ERA helped landlords recoup unpaid rent as far back as March 13, 2020. The goal was to prevent evictions and avoid extra costs of legal fees.
MaineHousing paused new applications on September 29, 2022, due to concerns about having enough money from the federal government to pay for all of the people who needed that help.
According to MaineHousing, as of Oct. 26, 33,795 unique households in Maine had been approved for help from this benefit. In total, more than $283.9 million in benefits were approved for payment.
The agency expects the current amount of funding to run out by the end of November.
"MaineHousing’s leadership team has been in ongoing talks with both the governor’s office and Maine’s U.S. congressional delegation as we determine the next steps for the ERA program in Maine. MaineHousing has also been in close contact with the community action agencies that are on the front lines processing applications to this program. They deserve our thanks and praise for the work they have done and continue to do with this program," MaineHousing communications director Scott Thistle wrote in an email on Oct. 20.
Thistle continued, "It is important to remind people that this program was funded with one-time resources and does not have an ongoing source of federal or state funding. It was meant to be a temporary program aimed at helping those who were financially impacted by the COVID pandemic. It helped thousands of households through some of the most dangerous times of the pandemic. It was not designed to be a permanent rental assistance program or a solution to the ongoing affordable housing crisis Maine, and much of the U.S. is facing."
Maine is not the only state with ERA funding to pause new applications: New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont have all paused or ended ERA as well, Thistle wrote.
Thistle added approximately 13 percent of this program expense has gone to households who are living in motel or hotel rooms. The bulk of this program has benefited households who are living in rental apartments and homes (87 percent of program costs).
It is unclear if there is enough funding currently to handle all of the current applications. As MaineHousing sorts through the applications, some may not be eligible.
"Pending applications to the program submitted before 5 p.m. on Sept. 29 will still be processed, and any determination of a benefit amount for households deemed eligible will be based on the funding available at the time of processing. As you might expect, these funding numbers are changing daily as applications are processed," Thistle wrote.
"We asked for an additional $55 million back in July – and while it would be good if that were approved we are conservatively predicting we will not get another tranche that large. Also key to note is that even if we receive additional funding for ERA – it will be expended and the ERA program will close."
Thistle said MaineHousing still has between $13 and $15 million in ERA funds available to distribute.
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