Housing is one of the basic needs of a human being.
However, not everyone enjoys the luxury of affording a decent home by themselves.
Homelessness is one of the biggest problems facing low-income earners.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, especially for residents of New Mexico state.
The government has upped its game in reducing homelessness, overcrowding, housing instability, and other housing-related problems.
Let’s look at the different housing support options that you can access as a New Mexico resident.
Find Rental Assistance Programs in New Mexico
The pandemic created a series of new challenges for everyone, New Mexico residents included.
One of them was the struggle for housing.
People lost their jobs, businesses shut down, and everything went crumbling.
Such problems meant that some people fell behind with rent and utility payments.
Fortunately for New Mexico families, Emergency Rental Assistance was introduced.
The federally funded emergency assistance came through for many people in New Mexico.
The government availed hundreds of millions for residents to aid them in covering past rent arrears and future rent and utility bills.
This fund was a lifesaver, as it helped many families stay in their homes by offering up to 18 months of housing funding.
By the end of 2021, the state had already distributed more than $77 million in funding to more than 21,000 New Mexico residents.
The good thing about this emergency funding is that it cuts across all people, from those living in small rental properties to the big housing providers.
This way, the government would offer a helping hand to landlords and tenants.
Better still, the utility providers weren’t left behind either!
One might wonder, what does the Emergency Rental Assistance cover for New Mexico renters?
The program allows you to pay rent, home and energy expenses, and utilities.
Therefore, you can use the ERA money to pay for gas, electricity, water, sewer costs, trash removal, and fuel oil.
The money can also cover additional costs such as internet services, New Mexico legal aid, housing stability costs, late fees, security deposits, and even when moving houses.
Will I Receive the Financial Assistance Payment?
The program’s policy determines the receiver of the money.
There are some cases where the program will reach out to your landlord and ask them to receive the funds as a payment of what you owe.
If they do not agree (or fail to respond within 5-7 days), the program can give you the money.
Some programs might also give you the money right away without contacting your landlord.
Either way, you have to use the funds for the intended purpose.
Do I Need to Pay Back the Assistance?
No, you do not.
If your household is eligible for the program, you do not have to repay any rental payments, utility arrears, or housing assistance.
However, there are some unique scenarios where you might have to pay back the money.
For example, if it is determined that you submitted a fraudulent application.
Is There a Cap or Maximum Amount of Assistance I Can Receive?
As mentioned above, the money can cover your rent arrears for up to 18 months, including overdue rent and future rent.
However, you are only allowed to pay up to 3 months ahead every time for future rent.
To add to that, it is also possible for you to apply for other rental assistance programs while still under ERAP.
However, if your household receives a subsidy from other programs such as Public Housing, you won’t be able to receive the same benefits from the emergency federal aid.
Also, if you have a tenant portion of rent not assisted by other federal sources, you can still receive the money.
What is Utility Assistance?
Utility assistance is money received to cover utility bill arrears within a household.
These include heating and cooling costs, bills, energy crisis costs, and energy-related repairs.
Who Qualifies for Rental Assistance in New Mexico?
Eligibility is based on the financial situation of a specific household.
However, you have to be a New Mexican.
People are deemed eligible for the Emergency Rent Assistance Program if they have an agreement for rent payment for their homes.
This eligibility criterion doesn’t necessarily require you to have a signed lease.
Am I Eligible to Apply for Assistance?
There are a few other requirements that a household in New Mexico has to meet to receive funding.
For example, at least one member must be unemployed with no known source of income.
Also, they should have lost income and owe huge expenses.
Therefore, you have to provide proof of undergoing financial difficulties.
People who had other financial hardships are considered too!
Also, at least one member of these new Mexico households should face a looming danger of homelessness.
These people have to be in a position not to easily secure stable housing for themselves.
After applying for the program, you have to prove to the officers responsible that you are indeed going through financial hardship.
You will also be required to confirm in signing that all the information provided is accurate.
The statement to be signed also includes a section where you confirm that you will use the money only for the intended purpose.
Some of the documents that can be used to prove unemployment include
- Documents to prove reception of unemployment benefits
- Taxation documents
- Statement from a former employer
- Pay stubs
Sometimes it can be challenging for some individuals to prove that they are unemployed.
These can happen to people whose previous workplace is closed or who didn’t have any source of income, to begin with.
In such scenarios, the state might treat you as a special case and allow you to draft your income statement.
Also, people with disabilities and no access to technology might be treated more leniently by the program.
You will be required to present a written statement accompanied by past proof of financial struggle for evidence of housing instability.
Here, you can use an eviction notice, rent bill, etc.
If you only want to apply for utility assistance, you will also need to present invoices, bills, and even proof of payment.
However, the aid won’t be able to cover utility costs that the landlord usually covers.
Applying for Rental Assistance in New Mexico
There are several things you need to know before applying for assistance in New Mexico.
How to Apply For Rental and Utility Assistance?
Applying for Emergency Rental Assistance is not a complicated process.
Props to the government for making the process as straightforward as possible.
People who live in New Mexico or within the Albuquerque city limits (including Bernalillo County, Santa Fe, doña ana county, las cruces) can apply through Email.
Where to Apply for Rental and Utility Assistance?
If you don’t want to apply via Email, you can still use the available application portal.
However, being eligible isn’t a guarantee of being approved.
Some people aren’t able to complete the application online.
Such people have to request applications directly from the program, which will be sent through the mail.
However, the process takes longer than the online one, but the application will still be reviewed.
What Documents Do I Need to Apply?
Below are some of the documents that you will have to present during your application
- An identification card
- Proof of income
- Unemployment support documents (they aren’t compulsory)
- Lease agreement (has to be signed)
- Past due rent
- Eviction notice (it is compulsory if you are already in the eviction process)
- Utility bills and invoices (if you are applying for utility assistance)
What If I Am Missing Documents For My Application?
If you miss one of the required documents in your application, you will have to fill in an attestation form. These forms are available for download online.
Also, if you don’t include a document by mistake, you will be contacted by a reviewer to submit the missing ones.
What If My Utility Provider Isn’t in the Application System?
Such cases are rare.
However, if your utility provider isn’t available in the system as one of the vendors, you choose the “Other” option on the portal.
The system will prompt you to a space where you will then enter the name of your utility provider.
What Is the Status of My Application?
You can monitor your application process on the ERAP portal.
New applications are processed within 3-5 weeks, and you can check for the status within this period.
Other Assistance Programs in New Mexico
There are several assistance programs in New Mexico that can help you with housing support.
What Is the Hotel Assistance Program?
The Hotel Assistance Program is a program that assists New Mexico residents with up to three months of motel and hotel cost assistance.
If you are an eligible applicant, you will have to choose from a list of participating hotels.
The hotels are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis and depend on their availability.
Also, it is not possible to get same-day reservation requests approved.
To be eligible, you must have been a renter when the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Also, you should have been affected financially (directly or indirectly) by the pandemic and fall under the program income limits.
Also, you should be living in any New Mexico county or within the Albuquerque limits.
What Is the Relocation Assistance Program?
The Relocation Assistance Program is there to provide you with the first and last month’s rent, three months’ rent, and a security deposit.
To apply, you have to identify a rental property before submitting your application.
However, all the application processes are nearly identical.
However, after 15 months, you will not be eligible for application anymore.
To apply for this program, you will need identification, proof of tenancy, income, and unemployment.
After the review process, the State of New Mexico will pay the money to your landlord directly.
If your application is declined, you have the right to appeal the decision.
However, you must complete all the appeal forms within the first forty-five days after award notification.
What Is the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)?
This program assists eligible low-income households to cover their home energy costs, such as heating and cooling.
The federally funded program comes through for people in dire need of home energy assistance within New Mexico.
Most of these are households whose big part of the income covers energy bills.
The program is also known as Fuel Assistance.
These and many more government programs are put in place to help you make ends meet when times are hard.
If you are eligible, it is up to you to take the extra step and submit your application.
This support will help you cover a lot of expenses and improve your way of life.
Meta: The pandemic devastated businesses and homes all over the world.
If you happen to be one of them and need help with housing, the rental assistance in New Mexico program may be for you.