A for rent sign hangs outside a Portland building in this 2017 file photo. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — A $200 million federally funded rental relief program will begin taking applications next week, the Maine State Housing Authority announced Thursday.

The program could provide up to a year’s worth of rental and utility payments for struggling Mainers, and comes as about a quarter of Maine adults say they are behind on rent, according to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The December stimulus package included $25 billion in rental relief. Maine got $200 million, more than most states on a per capita basis, due to a funding formula that advantaged less-populated states by making that amount the minimum allocation for each state.

The funding is more than eight times what Maine allocated to a state rental relief program last year. That program received more than 22,000 applications, according to state data.

The new program will do more, covering utilities and rent payments with no cap on the amount of rent covered. It will cover back rent for applicants to March 2020 and up to three months of future rent. Applicants can get up to 15 months of total assistance, MaineHousing said.

But the program also requires additional paperwork for applicants, including proof that their income — either in 2020 or on a monthly basis — is less than thresholds that vary by county. Tenants must also be able to show that they have taken a financial hit due to the coronavirus pandemic and are behind on rent or otherwise at risk of losing housing.

Evictions in Maine have mostly been halted during the pandemic due to a federal moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent that is currently in place through the end of March, but landlords are still allowed to file eviction cases in Maine courts.

Renters may apply for assistance beginning next Monday, March 1, at noon by filling out an application on MaineHousing’s website. Applications are processed through local community action agencies. Payments will be made directly to landlords in most cases.