Grown: How to get pandemic rent, utility assistance in Arkansas

Sahmone Robinson sits with her 1-year-old son, Riley, at their apartment Saturday in Benton. Robinson said she’s struggled to pay her rent during the pandemic and hasn’t had cooperation from the property management company that owns the building in her attempts to obtain emergency renter assistance. Now she’s concerned she”ll be evicted next month. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

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The state has hundreds of millions of dollars to give to Arkansas families who have struggled during the pandemic with rent, utility payments or homelessness. The funds are available through several different programs. Here are the basics on how to get assistance.

Arkansas Rent Relief Program

This program can be used by Arkansans in any county to pay overdue rent or future rent payments, as well as to pay for past-due utilities, according to the Department of Human Services website.

However, Pulaski, Washington and Benton counties each have their own rental assistance programs, and the state directs people living in those counties to apply locally before applying to the Arkansas Rent Relief Program. Information on those programs can be found further below.

Who qualifies?

To qualify for the program, household income must be less than 80% of the county median income. Go here to see what the limit is for each county in Arkansas, based on household size or use the map below.

[Map of Arkansas' rental assistance income limits not appearing above? Click here »]

At least one of these three criteria must also be true to qualify:

• A household member qualifies for unemployment benefits

• Household income decreased during the pandemic

• Someone in the household suffered significant financial hardship due to the pandemic (such as losing a job or incurring medical debt)

What does the assistance cover?

For rent, qualifying Arkansans can receive up to 15 months of combined back rent and/or future rent from April 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2021. However, renters can only apply only for three months of future rent at a time.

The assistance will also cover up to 5% of late fees on rent dating back to April 2020.

For utilities, the program can cover gas, water and electricity bills that are overdue.

How can Arkansans apply?

Applications can be submitted online through the Department of Human Services here.

Applicants will need to submit documents including:

• Proof of identity

• Proof of renting a home in Arkansas

• Proof of eligibility by income loss or financial hardship

• Proof of income for everyone in the home who files taxes

• Utilities bills, if applying for utility assistance

To see what specific documents count for each of these categories, go here.

County-level rental assistance programs

The programs for rental assistance in Pulaski, Washington and Benton counties have largely the same eligibility requirements as the Arkansas Rent Relief Program.

To apply in Pulaski County, go here.

To apply in Washington County, go here or call (877) 492-3727 for assistance.

To apply in Benton County, go here or call 2-1-1 for assistance.

COVID-19 Emergency Solutions Grant

This program is managed at the county level and assists with housing instability in ways such as rental assistance or finding and paying for housing for those who have become homeless.

Those in need of assistance can reach out to a participating organization in their county. The list of those organizations can be found here.