CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming launched a federally funded “Emergency Rental Assistance Program” on April 29. The first payments out of the total $180 million have been issued, a press release sent on Tuesday, June 1 states.

The program is being administered by the Wyoming Department of Family Services and the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. The application and review process has been taking longer than the initially estimated four weeks, according to the press release.

So far, 39 applications for $124,000 in assistance have been approved. A total of about 2,600 applications have been received requesting over $5.4 million.

“We understand that many are in desperate need of this financial assistance and apologize for the delay,” Wyoming Department of Family Services Director Korin Schmidt said. “We’ve begun moving applications to payment and are adding case management resources to meet demand.”

“We estimate at least 23,000 households in the state may qualify for assistance with making rental payments. Many of those may not have access to computers or need additional help, so we have set up local in-person application assistance in every county.”

Wyoming expects to have enough funding to assist all who apply, according to the release. The program provides assistance to eligible renters struggling to make rent, internet, and utility payments.

“ERAP has more flexible eligibility requirements than previous programs, including allowing for self attestation about the direct or indirect economic impact of COVID-19 if documentation cannot be found,” the press release states. 

Eligibility criteria include:

  • One or more individuals within the household is obligated to pay rent on a Wyoming residence or has unpaid rent on a previous residence that is located in Wyoming. If living on the Wind River Reservation, renters may be eligible for assistance through the Eastern Shoshone ERAP or Northern Arapaho ERAP.
  • Total household income is equal to or less than eighty percent (80%) of the area median income.
  • One or more individuals within the household has qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced financial hardship, directly or indirectly, to COVID-19. Financial hardship could include lost wages or increased costs – such as medical or child care – due to COVID.
  • One or more individuals within the household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing stability. Housing instability might look like past due rent, an eviction notice, or living doubled up, with friends or family, or in unsafe living conditions.

“Eligible households can obtain assistance for unpaid current and future rent, internet, and utility payments,” the release adds. “Eligible utility costs include electricity, energy costs (fuel, oil, propane), water and sewer, and internet service (up to $50 per month).”

“Other eligible expenses, done on a case by case basis, may include reasonable relocation expenses, security deposits, and reasonable late fees. Late fees are limited to ten percent (10%) of the requested rental assistance amount. Unpaid bills must be for services on or after March 13, 2020 and can be on a former residence in Wyoming. There is no monetary limit, and eligible applications can receive assistance for up to 15 months.”

The is local in-person assistance in each county in Wyoming. A list of organizations in each county where people can get help applying for the ERAP program is available online. There is also a call center, open 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to help answer questions. The toll-free phone number is 1-877-WYO-ERAP (1-877-996-3727). 

People facing eviction or in need of assistance can dial 2-1-1 or visit wy211.communityos.org to be connected to available resources and organizations that can help.

“Legal Aid of Wyoming may also be able to provide legal assistance to eligible renters living in Wyoming,” the release adds. “Visit www.lawyoming.org or call 1-877-432-9955 for Legal Aid.”

Schmidt added that the Wyoming DFS “also understand that there is a need for a homeowners program, which includes mortgage assistance, and we are working on obtaining federal funding to do so.”

Funding for the homeowners assistance program will come through the federal American Rescue Plan Act’s Homeowner Assistance Fund to help with mortgage and utility costs, but the release states that Wyoming has not yet received that funding from the U.S. Treasury.

“DFS and DWS will be hosting two virtual town hall meetings this week,” the release adds. “Recordings of the town halls will be available at dfs.wyo.gov/erap. The Homeowners Assistance Fund (HAF) virtual town hall will be held on Tuesday, June 1 at 2 p.m. Please register at https://bit.ly/3wF12W4.”

“The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) virtual town hall will be held on Wednesday, June 2 at 1 p.m. Please register at  https://bit.ly/3hX6z61.”