According to a press release put out by the Department of Family Services, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) is now open for online applications for renters struggling to pay their rent or utilities due to loss in income from COVID-19.

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The ERAP comes from a law passed on April 21 in the Wyoming legislature which helps to distribute $200 million in funds Wyoming received as part of the American Rescue plan that was passed in March.

Of that $200 million, $20 million is being used to cover administrative costs for the program, with the remaining $180 million being used to provide relief to renters.

According to the press release, the ERAP has four criteria to determine whether someone is eligible to receive assistance:

  • Someone pays rent on a property or has unpaid rent on a previous property.
  • Your total household income is less than or equal to 80% of the area's median income.
  • Someone in the household qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced financial loss in some way due to COVID-19.
  • Someone in the household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

In Natrona County, the income needed to meet the requirement is $44,640 for a single household, $51,000 for a two person household, and $57,396 for a three person household.

Applicants will need to show documentation, whether that be pay stubs for the third criteria, or eviction notices for the fourth criteria, to demonstrate that they experienced financial loss due to COVID-19 and are at risk of homelessness.

For the most part, the ERAP does not have a limit to the amount of assistance someone can receive to cover their rent or utilities, however there is a $50 limit when it comes to covering internet service, and the program cannot be used to cover mortgage payments and can't be used for telephone or cable services.

The assistance provided by the ERAP can cover the costs of rent and utilities for up to 15 months, however after successfully applying, people will need to reapply every three months to see if they continue to qualify.

Marilyn Wagner, Interim Executive Director for the Natrona County Community Action Partnership, said they are thrilled that the community will have access to the ERAP, which goes alongside seven other programs the partnership offers.

Wagner said in the past few years before COVID-19, over 800 people in Natrona County have needed some kind of rental assistance.

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