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RentHelp application deadline is Friday

Renters seeking up to 18 months in rent support have until 9 p.m. Jan. 28 to complete their applications for state assistance.

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ST. PAUL — Time is running out for tenants planning to seek help with back rent.

Minnesota Housing announced a Friday deadline for applications to the statewide RentHelpMN COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance program .

Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho said Tuesday’s announcement was a difficult one.

“We come to this decision proud of what we’ve done, in terms of the number of households we’ve helped, but also painfully aware, with so many applications coming in from so many households in January, that the need is still great,” she said. “The truth of the matter is, we are running out of federal dollars.”

Applications for help with overdue rent and utilities must be submitted by 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 28, to be considered.

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Applications received before the deadline will continue to be processed after the deadline, but applications in “incomplete” status at the deadline will be withdrawn.

“If you have not submitted by the deadline – if you simply opened and started, but haven’t submitted by the deadline – we will consider that application withdrawn,” Ho said, suggesting applicants check their status to ensure it is “pending initial review” or further along in the process.

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The announcement comes as applications for the federal funds have been trending up amid decreasing eviction protections.

As of Jan. 20, the RentHelp program has provided nearly $350 million in assistance to 46,000 households statewide.

Ho said January’s daily application numbers are higher than December's numbers, which puts this month on pace to have the program’s highest monthly rate.

“More households tend to have a problem paying rent in January,” she said. “It might be because they had seasonal work over the holidays. It might just be the cost of Christmas and high heating bills.

“This year we have high inflation. We have the loss of the child care tax credit check so many families were getting," she said. "There’s a lot of factors at play, and then there’s omicron, and people are still missing work because their kids got sent home or someone in the family got sick.”

Ho said the state has approximately $100 million in federal support remaining to be distributed, but it needs to cut off applications to make sure requests don’t exceed the funding provided through two rounds of federal legislation.

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“My goal is to neither be wildly over or wildly under (the available funding),” she said. If funds remain, they will be used to provide targeted housing support.

The state has applied for two rounds of funding related to underspending in other parts of the nation.

An initial $231 million request was denied, and Ho said she expects a $212 million request will follow a similar path. The final determination isn’t expected until March.

The housing commissioner said it would be difficult to estimate how long it will take to process the applications that are received by Friday's deadline.

Another unknown is how the deadline will affect eviction restrictions.

State legislation protects renters with pending RentHelp applications through June, but anyone who doesn’t have an application in the system won’t see that protection.

However, Ho said the protections might apply if rental assistance applications are filed at the local or tribal levels, where other support exists.

“My guess is that is something the lawyers and the courts will have to sort out,” she said.

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Need help?

RentHelp applications can be filed online at apply.renthelpmn.org

Additional assistance is available by dialing 211 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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