Guest Op-Ed: The Rental Relief Fund Is Helping to Keep Bostonians in Their Homers During the Pandemic

By Mayor Martin J. Walsh

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew that many people would be challenged by housing costs while they were out of work. As a part of our comprehensive response, we wanted to include assistance for renters. That’s why we created the Rental Relief Fund, a program to help cover residents’ rent payments. We started this program in April, and we recently announced an additional round of funding.

The Rental Relief Fund was set up to help residents who have lost their income and are not eligible for employment benefits, and residents who, even with unemployment benefits, are still not able to make ends meet. We dedicated $3 million for the first round of funding, which began in April. Earlier this month, we opened up a second round of applications, and dedicated an additional $5 million to the program, bringing the total to $8 million. We are currently accepting pre-screening applications in 10 languages for the second round until June 19 at 12:00 p.m.

Our goal is to ensure housing stability for Bostonians who are out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize how profoundly the public health emergency is impacting people, and our response is focused on equity and protections for our most vulnerable populations. 

The reason we are adding this money is that we expect low-income renters to remain in financial distress for some time. The state eviction moratorium that we helped to get in place will be lifted August 18, or 45 days after the State of Emergency ends. We have worked hard in the last couple of years to reduce evictions, and we have one of the lowest eviction rates in the country. We want to keep it that way. We want to make sure people can stay in their homes.

It’s important to know that it is safe to apply for this fund. You will not be asked about your immigration status during the Rental Relief Fund process, and it does not affect immigration applications as a “public charge.” Also, none of your information will be shared with anyone else that’s not processing your application. Our goal is to help anyone in need of rental assistance without fear or barriers. 

So far, we have granted $818,000 to 257 households across 17 neighborhoods to cover rent for April and May. That means 257 individuals or families are no longer facing potentially losing their housing or being displaced thanks to this Fund. We are currently in the process of reviewing more applications with our partner agencies and will continue to distribute money until the fund is depleted. 

I know that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people in many ways, especially in vulnerable populations. As we begin to gradually and safely reopen, we will continue to provide support for students, seniors, immigrants and renters. The Rental Relief Fund is one step. If you have any questions, you can call the Office of Housing Stability at 617-635-4200, or you can visit boston.gov/RentalRelief.

Martin Walsh is the Mayor of the City of Boston. 

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