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In Minnesota, an emergency rental assistance program is underway to reduce the risk of homelessness and housing instability in vulnerable populations

The impact of COVID-19 is widespread and varied; while exact statistics may vary depending on region, one overall trend is clear: COVID-19 has led to an increased possibility in homelessness and housing instability for countless families and individuals. 

The Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey found that in 2020 and 2021, around more than 10 million renters living in the United States were behind on their rent. Statistically, non-white renters were at a higher risk for being behind on rent (22% of black renters, 19% of Latino renters, and 18% of Asian renters) compared to only 9% of white renters who reported being late on their rent payments. 

In 2020, Minnesota experienced its worst job loss in recorded history, losses which were above the job losses experienced during the 2008 recession. Job losses were heaviest in low and medium wage industries, with 8% and 5% losses respectively. The Household Pulse Survey also found an increase in family and individual’s inability to pay for food and other ordinary household expenses, compared to their ability to pay for these items before the pandemic. 

How is it possible for the pandemic to create such a startling increase in difficulty keeping up with rent and paying for normal expenses? The impact of COVID-19 on potential homelessness and housing instability is complex and should be viewed within a broad context. There are many factors that have played into the pandemic’s connection for this increased statistic, including: income reduction, total job loss, increase in the pricing for food and household goods, as well as medical or healthcare conflicts causing unemployment or lost wages.

Decreased wages can be the result of businesses reducing their employee’s hours, due to a number of factors; these factors include restrictions which drastically reduce customer foot traffic, thus negating the need for employees to be on the schedule; as well as a business’s financial losses resulting in an inability to keep employees on their previous schedules.

Individuals may also experience decreased wages if they become ill with COVID-19 or suspect they may be ill with COVID-19, which requires them to engage in self-quarantining and makes it impossible to go into work for many positions which are not compatible with work-from-home protocols.

Total job loss may be the result of business’s inability to keep employees’ on the payroll due to the owner’s financial losses, as well as a reduced need for employees in sectors such as travel or hospitality, which saw dramatic declines during 2020. 

It is this loss of stable income–or the loss of income altogether–which drastically increases the risk for housing instability and homelessness. Income loss makes it more difficult to pay for all expenses, including food, utilities and of course, the rent. When someone cannot keep up with their rent, they are at a higher risk for eviction; many people, particularly in the current economic climate, do not have the funds or ability to conduct extensive rental searches in order to find a new place to live. In this case, the person may end up homeless for an indefinite period of time.

However, there are programs being implemented to reduce the risk of homelessness and housing instability in vulnerable populations. The Zero Balance Project Landlord Application for Federal Emergency Rental Assistance program, or ERA, is an assistance program which allows landlords to assist their renters negatively impacted by COVID-19; this is done through applying for financial relief on their behalf. The financial relief includes unpaid rent, fees and any lease-integrated utilities; the relief may also include up to 3 future months of rent.  More information about this program can be found at:  RentHelpMN, a statewide emergency rental assistance program in MN where the renter leads the application process, is now open. Applications are being accepted on a pipeline basis through at least December 2021. For more information, call 211 or visit

This article is Published by AG Consulting & Media. 

Support  for AG Consulting & Media’s  services is provided by a grant partnership with Dakota County and Pohlad Family Foundation 

Author: aagulaid

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