MERA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: What is MERA?
Answer: The Montana Emergency Rental Assistance program (MERA) is Montana’s program to administer federal funding provided by the pandemic-era U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance program (ERA). The Montana Department of Commerce’s Montana Housing Division administers MERA for the state of Montana. MERA was started in April 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. MERA will no longer receive applications as of March 24, 2023. 

Question: Why is MERA ending?
Answer: Funding for this pandemic-era program is dependent on federal funds. The Biden Administration has noted the end of the pandemic-era state of emergency on May 11, which means that ERA funding will not be renewed, and MERA will not receive additional funding for the program to continue.  

Question: When will MERA recipients receive their final assistance?
Answer: The Montana Department of Commerce is taking proactive steps to provide MERA funding for eligible applicants who applied on or before the March 24 deadline for as long as possible. The exact date when pandemic-era MERA funding will no longer be available is not known and is dependent on available funding. 

Question: How much funding did Montana receive for MERA?
Answer: ERA funding was administered to the states in two phases, referred to as ERA 1 and ERA 2. Under ERA 1, Montana and all other small populations states received a bulk per-state distribution of $200 million. Of that $200 million, Montana was programmatically required to return $98,296,176 to the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury). Treasury estimates had built-in expectations that significant volumes of monies would be returned from the bulk ERA 1 allocations made to small populations states. The expenditure deadline for ERA1 was September 30, 2022, therefore the Montana Department of Commerce voluntarily returned $35,000,000 unspent funds, as required by Treasury. Additionally, the Department provided $4,075,223 to two of Montana’s tribal housing authorities. As of March 17, 2023, MERA 1 assistance expenditures total $57,454,733 with a remaining balance of $5,172,865 – which will be returned to Treasury as part of the required closeout of ERA 1.

Treasury announced it would allocate $152 million to Montana for ERA 2 but funding was not provided in a lump sum. Instead, Treasury has sent a total of $106,003,014 of the announced $152 million. Treasury has reallocated $46,527,527 of the allocated $152M. MERA has disbursed $70,042,759 as of March 17, 2023, leaving approximately $35 million in ERA 2 funding, which has prompted the Department of Commerce to halt receiving applications in order to serve existing applicants.

MERA spends approximately $7 million per-month in assistance. While it is only an estimate, this would mean that existing MERA funding available will last approximately five months with the current payout schedule.

For information about ERA 1 and ERA 2 Guidelines from the Treasury, please visit:

Question: Why was Montana asked to return allocated funds to the U.S. Department of Treasury?
Answer: Montana was subject to involuntary reallocations that were based on expenditure ratios as determined by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. While Montana was one of the first states to begin administering its emergency rental assistance program, the requirements established by the U.S. Department of the Treasury did not take into consideration the population and specific needs of Montana and other states with smaller populations when establishing those requirements.

Question: What was Montana’s projected need for emergency rental assistance?
Answer: The Montana Department of Commerce projected that there would be between 7,500 and 8,000 ERA eligible households totaling approximately $44 million in needed assistance. To-date, MERA has served more than 13,000 households with over $120 million in assistance, nearly doubling the projected households who received MERA funding. Despite Treasury’s reallocations and miscalculations for small populations states, under the Montana Department of Commerce, MERA was able to serve more households than was expected.

Question: Was Montana the only state that returned ERA funding?
Answer: No, multiple states, especially those with similar populations sizes, were programmatically required to return ERA funding. For example, South Dakota returned roughly $183 million of its ERA 1 allocation, Wyoming $168 million and North Dakota returned $151 million of its ERA1 allocation. Montana was programmatically required to return $98 million of its ERA1 allocation.

Question: Do hotels/motels and landlords receive MERA funds directly?
Answer: Yes, according to U.S. Department of the Treasury guidelines and preference, hotels/motels and landlords receive MERA funds directly. In some instances where a landlord does not want to participate on the MERA program, a tenant may receive the MERA funds to pay rent and/or rental arrears.

Question: How does the Montana Department of Commerce prevent fraud?
Answer: The Montana Department of Commerce has an extensive review process that includes a pre-review to scan for potentially fraudulent applications. Those applications are identified and researched to make a final determination. In addition, MERA applications go through a first review process to determine eligibility and amounts to be paid before going through a quality control review. Potentially fraudulent applications can be identified and thwarted anytime throughout this review process.

Question: Is the Montana Department of Commerce aware of any MERA fraud that is unresolved?
Answer: The Montana Department of Commerce is following U.S. Department of the Treasury’s requirements regarding potentially fraudulent cases and any applications that were paid and then determined to be potentially fraudulent are being reviewed by the department for the appropriate action. 

Question: Are there resources available for households facing eviction?
Answer: Yes, please visit or call 1-800-666-6899. The Montana Legal Services Association has partnered with the Montana Department of Commerce to support its Montana Eviction Intervention Project. 

Question: What assistance is available for MERA recipients when MERA funds runs out?
Answer: Montana Housing administers a variety of on-going federal rental assistance programs, such as the Housing Choice Voucher (commonly known as Section 8) program. MERA recipients are encouraged to apply to the Housing Choice Voucher waitlist by visiting Interested applicants can select “APPLY NOW” to be added to the regional waitlist they prefer.

Additional options including applying for a Project Based Section 8 or Low-Income Housing Tax Credit affordable property. Details for these properties are available at and (select “Current list of Tax Credit Properties”).

A variety of additional resources for individuals, families and seniors are linked on our website at

Search available housing listings at

Finally, Montana 211 can connect individuals with community resources, services and assistance, including identifying options for housing and shelter needs.

Question: Where can I find information about Emergency Rental Assistance funds distributed throughout the State of Montana?
Answer: Visit select “Details” then “Programs” then “Emergency Rental Assistance 1” or “Emergency Rental Assistance 2” to view by-county distribution of funds.