On June 30, Governor Charlie Baker announced the creation of the Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) program. ERMA will provide up to $4,000 in direct rental and mortgage assistance to low-income households experiencing financial hardship during the state of emergency, dating back to April 1, but not currently covered by the COVID-19 Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) fund established in late March.
ERMA will draw from a pool of $20 million, including $10 million from the Federal CARES Act. The new program will provide funds for households up to 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), expanding the eligibility range compared with RAFT (capped at 50% AMI) in-line with MAR’s advocacy. As a result, it is predicted to serve twice as many households as the RAFT program. MAR is thrilled that the Administration has taken this important and balanced approach towards helping families struggling with housing insecurity.
Eligible households can access funds by applying through the 11 agencies that administer the RAFT program, starting July 1st (nine Housing Consumer Education Centers, LHAND, Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance).
On a parallel track, the House passed and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means is currently considering a supplemental budget bill containing an additional $20 million in funding to supplement the COVID-19 RAFT program and expand grants for eligible households to up to $10,000 per year, another element supported by MAR’s advocacy. The proposed COVID-19 RAFT expansion also reserves at least one-third of funds for households at or below 30% AMI. Thank you to everyone who participated in MAR’s Week of Advocacy for helping to raise the profile of these issues. MAR will continue to advocate for much needed housing assistance.