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State program to help cover housing costs

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Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

[Note: This post has been updated regarding which types of housing payments are covered by the assistance program.]

A state program will provide up to $170 million in financial assistance to New Mexico residents behind on housing payments and other housing-related expenses, with applications being accepted now.

New Mexico was expected to have about 60,000 renters unable to pay rent and 50,000 facing eviction by January 2021, with payment shortfalls of between $105 million to $153 million. That was the conclusion of a September 2020 study conducted for the National Council of State Housing Agencies.

A U.S. Census Bureau survey in the first weeks of March 2021 found that 9.2% of New Mexico respondents were not current on rent or mortgage payments and did not have confidence in being able to make the next month’s payments. Given the margin of error, the Bureau indicated that the number of New Mexico residents with housing insecurity is between 55,000 and 75,717.

The Emergency Rental Assistance program administered by the state Department of Finance and Administration began accepting applications Monday for the $170 million it received from the U.S. Treasury.

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Public Information Officer Henry Valdez said the department has received over a thousand applications in less than 48 hours and that the number “is growing as the word gets out about the program.”

In Chaves County and in most of New Mexico, people can apply online at www.renthelpnm.org. They also can send the application downloaded from the website by email to info@RentHelpNM.org or by mail to the Finance and Administration Department at 407 Galisteo, Santa Fe, NM 87501, with the envelope marked “Attention: ERAP.”

People living in Doña Ana County or in Bernalillo County outside of the Albuquerque city limits would apply directly with those counties. Contact information is available on the program website.

The program can provide up to 15 months of assistance, depending on a person’s or family’s situation. The grant money will cover housing costs, including rent or hotel or motel bills, as well as household costs such as gas, electric, water and sewer, and removal of trash, wood, pellets or fuel oil.

Applicants will have to provide valid identification and documentation about income and bills, and landlords will have to provide information as well. The unpaid housing or household costs would have to be incurred in March 2020 or later. Complete information is on the website.

Applications will be reviewed within 48 hours of receipt, with the money expected to be available within about 10 days once an application is approved.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure people know about the program and apply,” said Valdez, who called it a “win/win” for New Mexicans who owe housing-related payments and the people who are owed money.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.