Pandemic-impacted families having difficulty paying for their internet connection that they especially need for online learning and teleworking, could also apply for assistance with this, besides seeking help paying for their house rent or power and water bills.
The federal government provided $33.6 million for Guam’s Emergency Rental Assistance program, which the Department of Administration administers.
Of that amount, $4 million has already benefited nearly 800 households who needed help with rental and utility payments, according to DOA Deputy Director Bernadine Gines, in response to questions on Friday.
Gines said the expanded Emergency Rental Assistance Program will open its third application cycle on Sept. 6, and will also start covering internet costs for eligible tenants and households.
Internet connectivity is a vital service that allows renters and their families to engage in distance learning, telework, telemedicine, and obtain essential government services, she said.
“Other services offered in ERA’s Cycle 3 will be utility rapid payment with utility providers, application online webforms and submission, and expansion with outreach/marketing efforts to include on-site application submission,” Gines said.
These additional services and financial support, she said, are aligned with the recently updated guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Delegate Michael San Nicolas on Thursday announced the U.S Treasury’s newly released guidance relaxing certain requirements for processing the federal ERA programs.
Among those, according to San Nicolas, is allowing state and local grantees to advance assistance to landlords and utility providers based on estimated eligible arrears, and allowing for the use of self-attestation to document each aspect of a household’s eligibility for the ERA program.
The ERA program ends on Sept. 30, 2022, so there’s still ample amount to help more eligible households, specifically those with financial hardships as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, through next year.
Gines anticipates an increase in ERA application after the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance coverage ends on Sept. 4.
Besides the end of PUA, the federal moratorium for rental evictions also ends on Oct. 3.
“Many of the residents who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 still need help with rent and utilities. We encourage those who may be eligible for assistance to apply to for the program,’ DOA Director Edward Birn said in a statement.
DOA said eligible applicants include Guam residents who meet the following criteria:
- One or more individuals within the household has qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 pandemic;
- One or more individuals within the household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and
- A household income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income.
- DOA’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program office can be reached at (671) 638-4518/9 or via www.doa.guam.gov.