Friday is MN deadline to apply for help with rent

Attorney Kayleen Asmus consults with Brenda Benitez.
Legal Assistance of Olmstead County attorney Kayleen Asmus (left) consults with Brenda Benitez, an attorney representing a landlord, during an eviction clinic held at Olmsted County District Court in February 2019.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News 2019

Updated: 4:20 p.m.

Amid a January surge in new applications for rental help in Minnesota, housing officials declared Friday, Jan. 28 as the last day to complete an application for the RentHelpMN program to head off eviction for past-due rent.

Applications have to be submitted by 9 p.m. that day. Incomplete forms will not be accepted.

The deadline from Minnesota Housing is part of a wind down to the RentHelpMN program, which was supported by $450 million in federal money. That pot has been drawn down fast, officials said, because of financial distress from the pandemic, inflation and other hardships. 

“That puts us in the position where we hope not to be oversubscribed and so that’s how we come to this decision to announce the deadline today,” said Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho, who added that Minnesota’s program is unlikely to get more federal money.

Landlords face a tougher time evicting tenants with a pending application or those who are getting the assistance. The protections expire in June, but the move means fewer people will qualify going forward.

Ho said the deadline should not lead those whose applications have been approved to believe that they will lose help.

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“If people are in already, they’re in,” Ho said. “My message today for that group is: This isn’t ‘I’ve run out of funding.’”

Some county and tribal governments are running separate federally funded programs.

January has seen the most demand of any month since May, outpacing a busy December. 

As of Jan. 20, RentHelpMN made more than 77,350 payments totaling more than $349 million, which Ho said helped provide housing stability to 46,000 households.

The program allows up to 18 months of assistance for rent and utilities but requires tenants and landlords to work in tandem to submit applications.

Ho’s announcement of the deadline drew sharp criticism from a Republican lawmaker.

“From a shaky rollout to this abrupt closure, Commissioner Ho has mismanaged RentHelpMN every step of the way,” said Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake, in a statement. “A month ago, we could see the program running out of money and the need to have a plan in place that gave adequate notice to Minnesotans. And now, Commissioner Ho has manufactured a crisis that could have been avoided.”