Arkansans in need of rent relief are now able to apply for assistance, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) announced on Monday in a digital conference.

The Rent Relief Program, a $173 million DHS effort funded by the U.S. Treasury Department, began taking applications on Monday for Arkansans in need of assistance to pay their rent and utilities.

Open to both tenants and landlords, the program covers up to 15 months of rent and utilities incurred between April 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021, a powerpoint issued to the Log Cabin by DHS read. Eligibility for the program depends on multiple factors, including income, qualification for unemployment benefits or potential financial hardships. For more information on eligibility, visit ar.gov/rentrelief.

Expenses which are eligible to be covered by the new program include overdue rent and late fees, utility bills for gas, water and electricity and future rent through Dec. 31, per the program’s website.

Applications for the program are available online on computers and mobile devices. DHS’ Director of the Division of County Operations Mary Franklin told reporters on Monday that potential applicants can also call a phone line to apply at 855-RENTARK from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Franklin said that about 56,000 Arkansas households could be eligible to apply for the program, with 49,000 of them at or under the income limit set by the DHS.

“To be able to help people in this new way is exciting for [DHS] and we are very glad this program is available to help Arkansans who may need it,” Franklin said.

Three Arkansas counties already have rental assistance programs that don’t include the DHS’ new venture. Benton, Washington and Pulaski counties previously received funding to start their own programs and residents in those counties will be redirected to their programs if they apply through the DHS, Franklin said. If any or all three counties exhaust their program funding, the DHS will step in to assist residents in need of rental assistance.

Staff Writer Kolton Rutherford can be reached at krutherford @thecabin.net.

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