On Aug. 24, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) announced the launch of the new $100 million COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program, which provides housing assistance payments to prevent homelessness for eligible renters and homeowners.
Greater Twin Cities United Way and our partners helped advocate for this emergency funding earlier this summer, in part by leveraging our 211 Resource Helpline data to underscore the unprecedented housing assistance needs that were arising because of the pandemic. Minnesota’s COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program is funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and is designed to cover expenses such as rent, mortgage, utilities or other past-due housing-related expenses.
Our 211 resource specialists provide nearly 460,000 referrals to critical services for people in need every year. Because of our existing infrastructure and expertise, MHFA selected United Way’s 211 Resource Helpline to be the point of contact for people seeking these housing resources.
Through a contract from MHFA, United Way’s 211 Resource Helpline has expanded to support Minnesotans seeking to apply for these funds. To support this service, we’ve engaged over 30 additional call center staff who are helping streamline access to these housing resources for interested callers, which is important because housing services can be very difficult to access.
By serving as the go-place to get started, 211 is making these services easier for our neighbors to access as well as easing the burden on agencies providing these services. As of Aug. 26, two days after launching the program, our 211 team has already handled almost 2,000 calls.
Minnesotans interested in applying for housing assistance through the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program can call 211, text "MNRENT" or “MNHOME” to 898-211, or go online to 211unitedway.org. Once the process begins, applicants can track their status online.