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This page will be updated continuously to reflect the most recent information. This page was last updated on August 4, 2021.

Overview

Congress has passed several rounds of financial assistance and relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including most recently the American Rescue Plan.  The American Rescue Plan includes the following assistance for homeowners and renters.

*** WHAT IS NEW IN THE AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ***

The American Rescue Plan provides Hawaii with $166 million in new rent and utility assistance for renters and $50 million in mortgage assistance for homeowners.  Details are below.

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In addition to the American Rescue Plan, you may be eligible for ongoing relief provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“Families First”), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (COVID relief law).  

ASSISTANCE FOR RENTERS

The American Rescue Plan provides Hawai‘i with $166 million in dedicated rent and utility assistance funding through the Department of Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program. This funding is in addition to the $200 million Hawai‘i received in the December COVID relief law. These funds are separate from CARES Act funding that supported the rental assistance program currently administered by Aloha United Way and Catholic Charities on behalf of the State of Hawai‘i and other rental assistance programs administered by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and the counties.  

Who is Eligible?

Renter households with incomes no more than 80 percent of area median income (AMI) who meet the following conditions:

  • One or more individual in the household has qualified for unemployment benefits or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due to or during the coronavirus outbreak; and
  • One or more individual in the household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability which includes:
    • A past due utility, home energy, or rent notice or an eviction notice;
    • Unsafe or unhealthy living conditions; or
    • Any other evidence of such risk as determined by the State or county grantee.
    • Households with incomes of no more than 50 percent of AMI will receive priority.

Eligible Assistance

Assistance can be used to pay for:

  • Future rent and rental arrears;
  • Future utilities and home energy costs and delinquent payments; or
  • Other expenses related to housing.

 Assistance will be paid directly to the landlord or utility company unless the landlord refuses to accept the funds, in which case the assistance can be paid to the renter.

Landlords and owners may apply on behalf of tenants meeting the eligibility requirements, so long as the tenant cosigns the application, the landlord provides documentation to the tenant, and the payments are used to satisfy the tenant’s rental obligation to the owner.

How to Apply

The Department of Treasury maintains a website with information about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.  It includes links to Emergency Rental Assistance Programs around the country. For more information on applying to these programs in Hawai‘i, visit the Treasury’s website.

Other Rental Assistance in the American Rescue Plan

The COVID-19 relief bill also includes $6.5 million in Native Hawaiian Housing Assistance, including:

  • $5 million to the DHHL COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which is estimated to aid 800 households, including beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries. The DHHL program helps renters both on and off Hawaiian Home Lands pay for rent, utilities, security deposits and other expenses related to housing incurred due to the pandemic.
  • $1.5 million to DHHL to help homesteaders. Funds can be used for mortgage assistance, assistance after forbearance, principal reduction, utilities, property taxes, and other expenses to prevent foreclosure, default, or utility shut off.

More information on DHHL rent and mortgage assistance programs can be found at https://dhhl.hawaii.gov/covid-19/.

ASSISTANCE FOR HOMEOWNERS

The American Rescue Plan also included at least $50 million for Hawai‘i in Homeowner Assistance Fund funding for families who are behind on their mortgages or already in foreclosure as a result of the pandemic. Funds can be used to provide homeowners with assistance to cover mortgage payments, property taxes, utility payments, or other resources to help them stay in their homes.  

Who is Eligible? 

The program is intended to serve homeowners who have fallen behind or at risk of falling behind on their mortgage, property tax, or utility payments due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although specific eligibility criteria will be determined by the state, at least 60 percent of the funds must go to households at or below 100 percent of area median income. You can find area median income for your community here.

How to Apply

Funds will be administered through the state and information on how to apply will be available soon.  You can find more information about the Hawai‘i program here.

Native Hawaiian Homeowner Assistance

The Department of Hawaiian Homelands received $5 million in Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant funding that it is using to assist lessees who reside on Hawaiian Homelands. This funding is to assist homesteaders struggling to pay for their mortgage, utility bills, property taxes, insurance or association fees as a result of COVID-19. Information about applying can be found here.

FORECLOSURE MORATORIUM AND EXPANDED FORBEARANCE

On February 16, 2021, the White House announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Agriculture are implementing a coordinated extension and expansion of forbearance and foreclosure relief programs which would:

  • Extend the foreclosure moratorium for homeowners through June 30, 2021;
  • Extend the mortgage payment forbearance enrollment window until June 30, 2021 for borrowers who wish to request forbearance;
  • Provide up to six months of additional mortgage payment forbearance, in three-month increments, for borrowers who entered forbearance on or before June 30, 2020.

On February 25, 2021, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are extending the moratoriums on single-family foreclosures and real estate owned evictions until June 30, 2021. That moratorium was extended further on June 24, 2021 until July 31, 2021. On July 30, 2021, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced an extension of its moratorium on evictions for foreclosed borrowers and their occupants through September 30, 2021, and noted the expiration of the foreclosure moratorium on July 31, 2021.

In addition to the COVID relief laws, Congress previously provided relief to homeowners in the CARES Act that remains in effect.

Mortgage payment forbearance

The CARES Act provides relief for homeowners with government-guaranteed mortgages.

If the coronavirus pandemic has caused job loss, income reduction, sickness, or other issues, federally held mortgages are eligible for relief.  Mortgages backed by FHA, USDA, VA, HUD Sec 184, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac are eligible for interest and penalty free forbearance for at least 6 months and up to one year. 

  • Forbearance puts your payments on pause.  You will still have to make these payments eventually; however, interest will not accrue during this coronavirus-related forbearance period.
  • Your credit will not suffer.  Negative credit reporting is also suspended. 

Homeowners in need of the forbearance should reach out to their mortgage servicers as soon as possible or contact a HUD-approved housing counselor.  Contact information for a homeowner’s mortgage servicer can be found in monthly mortgage statements or coupon book.  The nearest housing counselor can be found at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/find-a-housing-counselor/ or by calling (800) 569-4287.

Q:  How do I know if my mortgage is eligible for relief (or federally held)?

A:  To find out if your loan is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you can use the look-up tools developed by each agency:

Q:  What if my loan is not federally backed?

A:  You should still reach out to your loan servicer.  Financial regulators have encouraged lenders to work with mortgage holders.  Contact Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i or a HUD approved housing counselor.  You can find the nearest housing counselor here or by calling (800) 569-4287.

Helpful information resources:

INCOME RELIEF

Besides direct rental assistance, the COVID relief law provided Hawai‘i individuals and families income relief that may help pay for housing costs during this crisis.  This includes: 

  • Direct Payments: Many people will qualify for a new round of direct payments from the federal government.  Please see our factsheet here.
  • Unemployment: Congress has extended eligibility for unemployment benefits and increased the amounts people can receive.  This includes independent contractors, part-time workers, and others not normally eligible for unemployment benefits.  Please see the unemployment benefits factsheet.  If your job has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, you can apply for unemployment benefits in Hawai‘i here.
  • Small Business Support: Loans are available to small businesses to help cover payroll and operating expenses and may help you if you own a small business, or if you are an independent contractor, sole proprietor, or self-employed.  Please see our factsheet here.
  • Tax Relief: Tax relief may help you and your family during this time, including by postponing the deadline to file and pay your 2020 taxes.  Please see our factsheet here.

The Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i has developed an FAQ document that includes additional state actions in support of homeowners and renters, which can be found here.