Evictions On Hold For Now, But Renter Help Still Needed
With Governor Tim Walz’s recent emergency declaration for the COVID-19 outbreak, landlords are no longer allowed to evict tenants for unpaid rent. That’s a big help to people who have lost their jobs or have seen their hours or wages cut because of the coronavirus crisis.
But as soon as the emergency declaration is lifted, evictions can start again — including for rent not paid during the stay-at-home order. That has area social assistance groups working to help people stay in their homes.
Hennepin County is on the front lines of that effort. Its Human Services department provides emergency assistance to people who aren’t able to pay their rent. That assistance is ordinarily on a one-time-only basis and the county needs evidence that the applicant will be able to keep paying rent after the emergency payment is sent, including verification of employment. But with COVID-19, those rules are relaxed a bit.
COVID-19 Emergency: Hennepin County Efforts to Curb Evictions
Since Hennepin County officials may not be able to reach employers who are working from home, requirements for employment verification are less stringent. There’s also more flexibility in the rule that applicants need to have a clear way to keep paying rent down the road. The county is considering that requirement on a case-by-case basis. It’s also ready to work with landlords to help keep people in their homes after the governor’s stay on evictions is lifted.
The county has two programs for emergency assistance for expenses like rent and utilities. The Emergency Assistance Program is for families with children and the Emergency General Assistance Program is for adults without kids. Between them, the two programs usually serve between 700 and 900 cases per month. Payments average $750 for adults without children and $1,500 when kids are involved.
That adds up to a lot of money in a normal year. Workers are expecting to spend a lot more this year because of the coronavirus outbreak. Officials say there’s already been a “significant increase” in applications for help.
“It depends on how long folks are out of work,” says Kate Heffernan Carson, who oversees public assistance programs for the county. “It sounds like the numbers of people who have lost their employment and have no income, those numbers are astronomical.”
That outlook means the county is pushing for additional funding for its emergency assistance programs. The state funds the Emergency General Assistance Program, while the Emergency Assistance Program receives both state and federal contributions.
Ways to Receive Help for Rent, Mortgage or Utilities
If you’re in need of emergency help to pay rent, mortgage, utilities, or other basic expenses and you live in Hennepin County, there are several ways to apply. Officials say that with many county employees working from home, the easiest and fastest way is to apply online at ApplyMN.
If you can’t apply online, you can also call the county at 844-803-8466. County officials note that changes due to the coronavirus are possible. For the latest information on how county procedures have changed, check their COVID-19 response page.
There are also other ways to get assistance. Area social services organizations have their own emergency assistance programs which can help people weather the coronavirus economic storm.
List of some organizations in the northwest metro which provide housing assistance:
For more coverage on COVID-19’s impact on our community, click here.
Brandon Bankston, Reporting