What types of goals do participants set for themselves?

While every participant has different goals for themselves, some common goals are:

  • Improving Credit
  • Developing a Household Budget
  • Starting a Savings Plan
  • Reducing Debt
  • Going Back to School
  • Attending Job Training
  • Purchasing a New Car
  • Pursuing Homeownership
How do I graduate from the FSS Program?

In order to graduate from the FSS Program and receive any money in your escrow account, the head of household must:

  • Complete all the goals outlined in their Contract for Participation
  • Find and maintain suitable, full-time employment
  • Certify that no household members are receiving cash assistance at the time of graduation
  • Be in good standing with SEMMCHRA

If a participating family has not met the program goals within the time specified in the FSS Contract of Participation, voluntarily leaves the FSS Program, or is terminated from the Section 8 Program any money in their escrow account will be forfeited.

Why should I participate in the FSS Program?

FSS participants have the chance to earn money in an escrow account.  If a FSS participant reports an increase in earned income and it results in an increase in their rent, a portion of the rent increase is placed into an interest-bearing escrow account.

If the participant graduates from FSS and achieves their program goals, they will be awarded the funds in their escrow account.  Some graduates have used their escrow money to purchase a new car or as a down payment on a house!

If I graduate from the FSS Program, do I lose my Section 8 Voucher?

No, you do not lose your Section 8 Voucher.  FSS Program graduates can continue to use their Section 8 voucher as long as they meet the Section 8 program requirements.

How long does the Contract of Participation last?

The Contract of Participation lasts for 5 years; however, some participants graduate in less than 5 years.

What are the steps to participate in the FSS Program?
  1. Complete the FSS Interest Form located on the sidebar of this webpage to request a Pre-Enrollment Application
  2. Complete the FSS Pre-Enrollment Application once it has been emailed to you
  3. Set up a time to discuss your program goals with the FSS Coordinator
  4. Complete and sign the FSS Contract of Participation
  5. Work with the FSS Coordinator to meet your goals
  6. Once all goals are completed, apply for graduation
Do I have to be receiving cash assistance to participate in the FSS Program?

No, you do not have to be receiving cash assistance to participate in the FSS Program.  Any participants receiving cash assistance will need to be off of it prior to graduating

Do I have to be employed to join the FSS Program?

No, you do not have to be employed when enrolling in the FSS Program.

How do I protect myself financially during the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Make sure you are following SEMMCHRA’s emergency budgeting tips, which can be found here.

Review a copy of your credit report at least once a year.  You can get a free copy of your credit report from https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.  This site is the only way to access a truly free copy of your credit report.

Contact your creditors and/or landlord as soon as you know you will miss a payment.  Some creditors have developed plans to help struggling borrowers who have been affected by COVID-19.

Beware of debt relief companies.  These companies charge high fees and do not always deliver on what they promise.  There are nonprofit credit counseling agencies that may be a better option.

SEMMCHRA offers a free Financial Wellness program.  If you have questions about budgeting or your credit, please contact Tressa Sauke, the Self Sufficiency and Homeownership Coordinator.  She can be reached at 651-565-2638 ext. 204 or at tsauke@semmchra.org.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a lot of great information.  Below is a list of links to helpful publications:

Am I eligible for Unemployment Benefits?

Congress has passed new rules regarding unemployment benefits and COVID-19.  You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if:

  • You have temporarily or permanently lost your job or had your hours reduced because of COVID-19.
  • A healthcare professional or health authority recommended or ordered you to avoid contact with others due to COVID-19.
  • You have been ordered not to come to their workplace due to an outbreak of COVID-19.
  • You have received notification from a school district, daycare, or other childcare provider that either classes are canceled or your usual childcare is unavailable, as long as you made a reasonable effort to find other childcare and requested time off or other accommodation from your employer and no reasonable accommodation was available.

If you have any questions regarding unemployment eligibility and COVID-19, visit the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance website at https://www.uimn.org/applicants/needtoknow/news-updates/covid-19.jsp

How do I apply for Unemployment?

Directions on how to apply for unemployment insurance can be found at https://www.uimn.org/applicants/needtoknow/news-updates/covid-19.jsp.

Due to high call volume, it will be faster to apply online.  Please pay special attention to the application schedule, which is listed below.  The day of the week you can apply for benefits depends on the last digit of your social security number.

If the last digit of your
Social Security number is:
Day of week Time
0, 1 or 2 Monday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
3, 4 or 5 Tuesday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
6, 7, 8 or 9 Wednesday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Any Thursday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Any Friday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Will I get an economic-impact payment?

Eligibility for an economic-impact payment is going to depend on your income and family size.  Remember to protect yourself from scammers who are looking to steal your payment.

The following are signs someone may be trying to steal your payment:

  • You get a phone call, text, or email asking you to verify personal information or bank account numbers.
    • The IRS will not call, text, or email you to ask for bank information or personal identifying information. If someone calls asking for personal information, hang up! It they text or email you, delete the message.  Do not click on any links!
  • You receive a check in the mail that requires you to call a number or go to a website to verify the check.
  • Someone asks you to deposit a check but asks you to send them some of the money back.
  • Someone is claiming they can speed up your payment
  • Someone contacts you calling it a stimulus payment, the government is calling it an economic-impact payment

For more information about eligibility and how to receive a payment, please visit the Internal Revenue Service’s website.  Their site can be found at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know

What if I can’t pay rent?

If you are concerned about being able to pay rent, please contact your property manager or landlord as soon as possible.  SEMMCHRA wants to ensure that everyone maintains their housing during this crisis.  SEMMCHRA property managers will develop payment plans with SEMMCHRA tenants who need them on a case by case basis.  If you are a Section 8 Voucher holder make sure to notify Tammy Moyer, Housing Director, as well.  She can be reached at 651-565-2638 ext. 210 or by emailing her at tmoyer@semmchra.org

Can I be evicted?

Governor Walz has issued Executive Order 20-14, which halts evictions during this peace time emergency.  While this order prevents landlords from evicting tenants, it does not relieve the tenant’s obligation to pay rent.  If you are concerned about missing a rent payment, please speak with your property manager or landlord.  To read Executive Order 20-14 click here.

What should I do if my income is reduced due to a job loss or a reduction in hours?

If you lose your job or have your hours reduced make sure to let your property manager or landlord know as soon as possible.  If your rent is based on your income, inform SEMMCHRA about the decrease immediately by filling out the change of income form.  SEMMCHRA will do our best to process changes in a timely fashion.  For the change in income form, click here.

Are Annual Recertifications still being done?

Yes, SEMMCHRA will still be conducting annual recertifications.  When you get your recertification packet in the mail, be sure to fill out and return all the paperwork.  Your Section 8 Voucher can be terminated if you fail to return all the necessary paperwork on time.  You can either mail in your paperwork or drop it in our drop box.  The drop box is located next to the SEMMCHRA office’s main door.

How do I pay rent while the SEMMCHRA office is closed to the public?

There are several ways to pay your rent while the SEMMCHRA office is closed to the public.

  1. Send your rent payment in the mail
  2. Sign up for ACH for automatic withdrawal of rent from your account each month. Contact your property manager if you would like to sign up for ACH.
  3. Drop you rent payment in our drop box located next to the main office door. Please include your apartment address and unit number with your check.
Is the Section 8 waiting list open?

Yes, the Section 8 waiting list is open beginning April 1, 2020.

Applications will only be accepted from families eligible for the Southeastern Minnesota Multi-County HRA residency preference.  Families wishing to apply for the Section 8 program are required to complete the online application and submit proof of residency (ex: copy of a lease or utility bill, proof of employment in our service area).  The online application can be found at https://www.semmchra.org/rental-assistance/

Applications from non-Southeastern Minnesota Multi-County residents will not be accepted.

Persons with disabilities who require a special accommodation in completing an online application may call the Housing Director, Tammy Moyer at 651-565-2638, ext. 210 to make special arrangements.

Are SEMMCHRA staff available to help me?

Yes, while SEMMCHRA’s office is closed to the public, our staff is still available by phone or email.  For a list of staff and contact information, click here.