By James Collins, Director of 211
In partnership with Greater Twin Cities United Way’s 211 resource helpline, the state of Minnesota recently launched RentHelpMN, a new rental assistance program making it possible for low- and moderate-income renters to get caught up on overdue rent and utilities. The program also makes provisions for those at risk of falling behind on rent payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Renters can apply for funding or learn more about the application process by visiting RentHelpMN.org or calling 211.
Partnering Again with 211
The RentHelpMN 211 partnership came about because of the success of last year’s COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program collaboration between the state and 211. In fall 2020, Greater Twin Cities United Way partnered with the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to provide a streamlined application process and support for the state’s COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program (CHAP). Over the course of the 3.5-month program, United Way’s CHAP team answered nearly 45,000 calls from Minnesotans impacted by COVID-19 and helped callers apply for and/or answered questions about applications for housing assistance.
The valuable role 211 played in this statewide program was appreciated by Minnesota Housing, local nonprofit administrators and applicants alike, and when $375 million in additional rental assistance funds were made available via the COVID-19 emergency relief package passed in December 2020, Minnesota Housing invited 211 to play a similar role in the new COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program.
Building on Previous Programs
Over the past few months, our 211 team has partnered with Minnesota Housing to establish the year-long CERA RentHelpMN program, including participating in designing the application process, consulting on awareness and outreach efforts, and adding 35 new RentHelpMN-specific folks to our 211 team. We applied the knowledge and expertise gained through the CHAP program to the development of the new yet similar RentHelpMN program, with a focus on getting applicants help as quickly as possible.
This new program is especially valuable to families facing eviction as it provides not only back-due rent but also can pay up to three months of forward-facing rent, providing households with much needed stability as we ease out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Renters can apply directly or learn more about the application process by visiting renthelpmn.org or calling Greater Twin Cities United Way’s 211 Resource Helpline (Toll Free: 1.800.543.7709; Local: 651.291.0211). The 211 Resource Helpline has dedicated multilingual staff available to answer questions about RentHelpMN COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance, 8:00 a.m. – 8 :00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.