Longview News-Journal: Tester Secures $50 Million to combat Montana Housing Crisis through American Rescue Plan
Amid Montana’s worsening housing crisis, Montana has $50 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding coming for the Montana Homeowners Assistance Fund to help homeowners that have experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Jon Tester announced.
“The COVID-19 Pandemic exacerbated Montana’s housing crisis, but through the American Rescue Plan we’ve been able to cut costs for struggling homeowners and keep Montana’s economy strong,” Tester said. “Stable housing is critical to the well-being of families across the state, and these resources will ensure that those hit the hardest by the pandemic will be able to rebound with the rest of Montana. This is great news for folks chasing the American dream of home ownership, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make that dream more attainable for all Montanans.”
The Homeowners Assistance Fund was created by ARPA, and funds are now available to homeowners who experienced financial hardships January 21, 2020. Montana homeowners whose gross household income does not exceed 150 percent of the Area Median Income can qualify for funding. Additionally, 60 percent of funds available must target Montanans whose gross household income does not exceed 100 percent of the Area Median Income.
Qualified homeowners may use Homeowners Assistance Funding for the following:
- Mortgage Reinstatement: Financial assistance, in the form of an interest-free loan, to bring a mortgage account current with no remaining delinquent amounts, including payments under a forbearance plan, and to repay amounts advanced by the lender or servicer on the Borrower’s behalf for property charges.
- Lien Prevention: Financial assistance, in the form of a grant, to prevent property tax foreclosure or remove or prevent creation of other liens that would place the homeowner at imminent risk of displacement.
- Utilities/Internet: Electric, gas, home energy costs, and internet/broadband assistance.
More information on eligibility and the application process can be found here.
In 2020, Tester held hundreds of meetings with Montana’s workers, small business owners, frontline health care workers, educators, Tribes, and local officials to solicit input about what Montanans need to make it through the pandemic. Tester used that input to help craft the American Rescue Plan, which provided $20 billion in vaccine funding, $382 million for Montana K-12 schools, legislation to restore long-distance service to the Empire Builder Amtrak route, and billions for small businesses, rural hospitals and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Tester is a strong advocate for expanding affordable housing opportunities in Montana, and was Montana’s only statewide elected official to support the American Rescue Plan.
Through his role on the Senate Appropriations Committee, he played a key role in negotiating a bipartisan budget deal that made substantial investments into affordable housing initiatives including the HOME and Community Development Block Grant programs.
Last November, Tester secured nearly $1.7 million for rural Montana housing and economic development through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Awards program.
In 2020, he helped secure more than $4 million for Public Housing Authorities across Montana and more than $26 million for affordable housing in Indian Country. He also worked to secure $15 million in HUD funding made available by the American Rescue Plan to support affordable housing construction, purchasing, or rehabilitation for low- and very-low income families. That same year, Tester held a Housing Summit to gather ideas and suggestions from stakeholders and constituents on how to address the growing housing crisis, and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he secured $3.3 million to support housing, public health, coronavirus response, and economic disruption needs.