Church facilitates emergency rental program

Posted 4/29/21

People who are struggling to pay their rent or utilities amid the pandemic may be eligible for federal help.

The Wyoming Department of Family Services is administering the Emergency Rental …

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Church facilitates emergency rental program


People who are struggling to pay their rent or utilities amid the pandemic may be eligible for federal help.

The Wyoming Department of Family Services is administering the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. It’s part of a U.S. Treasury initiative recently expanded by the American Rescue Act, the same program that sent out stimulus checks. The program, ERAP for short, pays landlords, broadband internet and utility companies to assist Wyoming renters who are no longer able to meet those obligations because of the impact of COVID-19.

There is $180 million available in Wyoming for payment assistance and $20 million for application assistance and administrative costs.

Renters check their eligibility and apply for help online by visiting or calling 1-877-996-3727. 

Hope Lutheran Church in Powell is also assisting local renters in navigating the application process, especially those who do not have internet access or are computer illiterate. The church may be reached at 307-754-4040. 

“If you need help, if you are behind on your rent, or think you can’t pay your rent for the next three months, I’m your contact,” said Pastor Donna Putney, the facilitator for the program in Park County, adding, “If you can’t go online and do the application, I’m your contact.”

She asks those who need help to make an appointment so all the needed paperwork can be gathered beforehand, streamlining the application process.

If approved, the assistance is sent directly to the utility companies or landlords. The funds can be used to pay rent, whether past due, current or future, for up to three months at a time. Eligible renters may receive assistance for up to 15 months.

The funding may also take care of relocation costs, security deposits and late fees. Utilities eligible for assistance are electricity, water and sewer, internet services up to $50 and energy costs, including fuel oil or propane. 

Renters must meet eligibility requirements which include: being a renter with a household income of less than 80% of the area’s median income (about $50,000 in Park County); qualifying for unemployment benefits or being able to show financial loss because of COVID; and being at risk of losing housing.

Some of the documents required are a driver’s license or government-issued ID. Applicants do not have to be a U.S. citizen to receive assistance. They may use a driver’s license, a passport, U.S. permanent resident or alien registration card, or verifiable employer issued ID with a photo, name, date of birth, gender and address.

A copy of the lease  that shows the landlord, tenant, address and amount will be needed, if there is one, or the applicant can show verification of rental by providing a utility bill with the rental address, a Wyoming driver’s license or state ID with the rental address; the rental amount can be verified by a bank statement, canceled check or other paperwork that establishes a rental payment pattern.

If these documents are not available, there may be other options to verify occupancy.

Proof of income is also required and may be documented by pay check stubs, proof of app payments for gig workers, W-2 form or any of several other forms.

Additionally, the applicant will need to provide proof of financial losses or increased costs caused by the pandemic. This could include approval for unemployment, pay stubs before and after the start of the pandemic, copies of medical expenses, or an approval letter for other assistance programs such as Medicare or SNAP.

Housing instability, existing or impending homelessness can be a past due rent or utility bill, eviction notice or court date notification or a written statement explaining unsafe or unhealthy living conditions.  

Landlords can let their tenants know about the program and assist them with gathering the needed documents. They must be enrolled as a vendor with the Wyoming State Auditor’s office to receive payments.

The Wyoming Department of Family Services had asked county governments to assist the local residents who are unable to apply online, but Park County commissioners declined to take on that task earlier this month. Commissioners were concerned about how difficult the program would be to administer — and that they could be required to pay back any funds that were awarded incorrectly.

Commission Chairman Lee Livingston said he knows there are people who need help with their rent, but he thought it would be a pretty small number of people who wouldn’t be able to apply online. Information presented at the April 6 meeting indicated that a total of $74,000 has been allocated to provide the additional assistance to renters in Park County, including any administrative expenses.

( CJ Baker contributed reporting.)