Frequently Asked Questions


How does the program work?

The program provides rent and utility assistance to Montanans who have been financially impacted, directly, indirectly, or during the COVID-19 pandemic. Expanded program eligibility coming soon. Renters can apply directly for rental and utility assistance, and landlords can initiate the application on their renter’s behalf, but Montana Housing will need to obtain the renter’s signature and required documentation to determine their eligibility.

What is Okta?

Okta is the state of Montana’s secure login platform. An Okta account is required to complete the Emergency Rental Assistance program application. Account creation steps are available at HOUSING.MT.GOV on the Emergency Rental Assistance page. If after you’ve registered for an Okta account and are unable to get through the application, log out and log back in.

How much assistance can I receive for my rent or utilities?

A household may receive assistance for past due rent, future rent, past due utility bills, and future utility bills. The maximum per month rent assistance is $2,200 plus reasonable late fees as supported by lease agreement or landlord verification. Effective February 22, 2022, the maximum per month utility assistance is $500 per eligible utility.

My household was approved and received assistance, but now we need continued assistance for future rent and/or utilities. How do we apply for more assistance?

Previously approved households can request continued assistance by logging into their account and clicking the ‘Create Application’ button. This will generate a new application that contains information from the household’s previous application. All households will be required to:

  1. Provide updated income documentation reflecting their household’s last two months of income; if the household’s income has not changed in 2022, a copy of their 2021IRS 1040 is acceptable;
  2. Attest that they still have a COVID-19 financial hardship;
  3. Provide updated utility statement(s) if requesting utility assistance (if not provided, prior statement(s) will be used to calculate payment)
  4. Sign the Applicant Certification and Release of Information.

Households who have had a change of circumstance (i.e., moved to new rental address or experienced a rent increase) will need to provide the information related to these changes. Only 3 months of future assistance can be provided at a time.

Which utilities are eligible for reimbursement?

Electricity, home heating (i.e., gas, propane, wood) and internet costs are eligible.

Can I receive assistance for my internet bill?

Yes. The program is also able to provide $50 per month for internet service. Internet service assistance will be paid directly to the household, if eligible.

How long will the assistance be available?

Funds under the Consolidated Appropriations Act will be available until September 30, 2022.
Funds under the American Rescue Plan Act will be available until September 30, 2025.

Who is eligible?

  • Your household income cannot exceed 80 percent of the area median income. Check the area median income where you live using the tool here.
  • You or someone in your household must have experienced income loss, financial hardship, qualified for unemployment benefits, or incurred significant costs due, directly or indirectly, to COVID-19. Expanded program eligibility coming soon.
  • Be able to show that you are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability. For example, if you have received a past due rent notice, eviction notice, late utility or utility shut-off, or if you are experiencing unsafe or unhealthy living conditions.

What types of expenses can the assistance be used for?

Past due rent, future rent, unpaid rental deposits (if the reason for moving to a new unit was directly or indirectly as a result of COVID-19), late fees, past due utilities, and future utilities. Any rental or utility arrears, including late fees, prior to April 1, 2020 are not eligible.

Will the money be sent to me to pay my rent/utilities?

Montana Housing will issue rent and utility assistance payments directly to the landlord, property owner or utility provider. Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification (W-9 information) will be required.

The program will make outreach efforts to landlords. Per Treasury guidance, outreach will be considered complete if (i) at least three attempts are made by phone or email over a five calendar-day period, or (ii) a landlord confirms in writing that the landlord does not wish to participate. The program will make at least one outreach attempt by phone.

If a landlord does not respond to reasonable outreach efforts, the assistance may be provided directly to the renter upon receipt of renter’s Taxpayer Identification Number.

Can Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) recipients also get assistance for utilities through the Montana Emergency Rental Assistance program?

Yes.  

If I already received assistance from Commerce through the 2020 Emergency Housing Assistance Program, can I also receive Emergency Rental Assistance?

Yes, but will be determined case-by case.

Are Emergency Rental Assistance Grants taxable?

Montana Housing has been advised that grants paid as rental assistance to landlords is considered gross income by the Internal Revenue Service and will be reported on an appropriate Form 1099. Montana Housing is unable to provide tax advice. If needed, we encourage grant recipients to work with a Certified Public Accountant.

Will Emergency Rental Assistance cover any rent or utility payments that were due prior to April 2020?

No, rent or utility payments that were due prior to April 1, 2020 are not eligible. Unpaid security deposits corresponding with initial lease agreements effective April 1, 2020 or after are eligible.

If I have a mortgage, can I access the utility assistance portion of the program?

No.

Is there a co-pay requirement for my rent?

No, there is no co-pay for renters to receive rent assistance through the Montana Emergency Rental Assistance program.

Can the Emergency Rental Assistance program be used for hotel or motel room costs?

Montanans who need assistance with hotel/motel costs should first contact the Human Resource Development Council near them regarding their eligibility for Emergency Solutions Grant funds. Montana Housing will consider Emergency Rental Assistance for Montanans who are not eligible for Emergency Solutions Grant on a case-by-case basis. An extended stay hotel/motel agreement will be required.

Can households living in government-assisted housing receive Emergency Rental Assistance?

Yes. Households receiving other forms of rental subsidy are eligible to receive Emergency Rental Assistance, but only for the portion of rent that is considered the household’s responsibility. These households will be required to provide a copy of the rent determination letter from the property or agency who is providing the rental subsidy. Households should first report any income loss or financial hardship to their Public Housing Authority or property manager and complete and interim re-examination before Emergency Rental Assistance is provided.

I have a mobile home with monthly lot rent. Is lot rent eligible under this program?

Yes. Applicants with a monthly lot rent or lot lease payment can include that cost in the monthly rent figure in the program application.

I am currently homeless but have found a new rental unit. What kind of documentation do I need for help with a deposit and rent if I don’t have a lease yet?

An executed lease agreement would not be required in this case, but written documentation such as an email or letter from the landlord who can be identified as the verified owner or management agent will be needed. Landlords can satisfy this requirement by completing the online Montana Emergency Rental Assistance Landlord Verification form.

Upon request, Montana Housing can assist homeless applicants with an official letter outlining the financial assistance under the Emergency Rental Assistance program that applicant may use to assist with their housing search.

I am going through an eviction proceeding as a result of COVID-19, is there legal assistance available?

The Department of Commerce has partnered with the Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) on the Montana Eviction Intervention Project, a program that provides civil legal assistance for Montanans facing evictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information visit MONTANALAWHELP.ORG or call 1.800.666.6899.

Where can I find information about Emergency Rental Assistance funds distributed throughout the State of Montana?

The American Rescue Plan Act Dashboard of Funds Distributed through the State of Montana is available at GOV.MT.GOV/ARPADASHBOARD. Select the “Emergency Rental Assistance” program to view by-county distribution of funds. This website is updated weekly.

Can the Montana Emergency Rental Assistance (MERA) program help with RV/camper space rent?

Yes, in some cases when the family has vacated their permanent housing unit and are currently searching for a stable housing environment. The space must be in an established camp area that is open to the public and has appropriate electrical and sanitation hook ups. The establishment must be willing to provide an agreement stating they will rent to the family on a monthly basis.

MERA may provide assistance for up to three months, with the possibility of additional three month increments (with a maximum assistance of 18 months) as long as the family can demonstrate they are working with their local HRDC or community service provider(s) to locate permanent housing.

Can the MERA program help with a stay in a hotel/motel?

Yes, in emergency situations when a family is homeless and can provide documentation they have exhausted all other emergency housing. The hotel/motel must be willing to provide an agreement stating they will rent to the family on a monthly basis; the family must abide by all hotel/motel rules and guidelines.

During the hotel stay the family, is expected to work with local housing agencies or community service providers to find permanent housing. Continued assistance is dependent on the family providing documentation of their housing search and being in good standing with the establishment.

MERA may provide assistance for up to three months, with the possibility of additional three month increments (with a maximum assistance of 18 months) as long as the family can demonstrate they are working with their local HRDC or community service provider(s) to locate permanent housing.

Can the MERA program pay for a different hotel/motel if I am asked to leave?

Yes, if the current hotel/motel can no longer accommodate a MERA applicant for occupancy reasons, and they can provide verification the individual leaving is in good standing.