$325 million available to cover overdue rent, utility bills
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Acting Gov. Omar Marrero Díaz announced Monday that $325 million in federal funds is available for island residents under the Rental Assistance Program to help people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with the payment of lapsed rent, water and electricity bills.
During a press conference held at La Fortaleza, Marrero confirmed that people who are eligible for financial aid would be able to cover past-due rent for up to 15 months, as well as overdue electricity and water bills for up to 15 months.
Likewise, participants who have had overdue rent since April 2020 are eligible for the assistance program.
“This assistance is not only available to low or middle-income families. So we urge all Puerto Ricans to apply,” Marrero said. “This is one-time financial aid; we urge everyone to request it.”
Meanwhile, the secretary of state-designate said that up to 55,000 families who live in rental housing could benefit from the funds allocated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Public Housing Administrator Alejandro Salgado said individuals or families whose earnings are at or below 80 percent of the median income of the area where they reside, who were eligible to receive unemployment assistance during the public health emergency, and who saw a reduction in income or significant increase in expenses during the pandemic are eligible for the program.
“During the application process, there are a number of documents that we will request from participants,” he said. “That information is available at www.ayudaparaturenta.com.”
“After the application, it may take up to a month to get the financial aid,” Salgado added.
When asked how long the program will last, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón said the funds will be available until they are used up. She also called on islanders to “not lose their opportunity” and apply for the assistance program.
“This is what happened with the PPP [Payment Protection Program] and SBA [Small Business Administration] loans, as people apply for the program, the funds will continue to be disbursed until it reaches its end,” she said. “The faster you apply, the higher the chances that you will get the financial support.”
Meanwhile, Housing Secretary William Rodríguez said that both landlords and participants are required to register for the program to prevent duplicate applications and so that the assistance funds are properly allocated.
“No matter how much money they owe in rental payments, as long as it is a 15-month delay, they are eligible,” he said.
To apply for assistance and obtain more information, interested parties can access the website at www.ayudaparaturenta.com. Those who are interested can also call at 787.759.1888, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays.