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Relocation assistance programs offer a lifeline to those who need support during the moving process. These programs may cover the cost of professional moving services for displaced families, help low-income families make a fresh start, or provide low-interest loans for first-time homebuyers. In this article, we’ll explain the various programs available, how they help individuals and families, and who qualifies to receive assistance.
Relocation Assistance Programs Explained
Relocation assistance programs are initiatives that provide practical support and financial aid to individuals and families who need help moving. The specific benefits vary by program and situation but may include reimbursements, grants, or direct services. Some programs help cover security deposits and other moving costs, while others focus more on helping families settle into their new homes and achieve self-sufficiency.
Most federal relocation assistance programs available today emerged over the last half-century to assist low-income families, military members, and natural disaster victims. However, their roots can be traced back to the programs and projects instituted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.
Like modern relocation assistance programs, many of the programs in Roosevelt’s New Deal focused on helping American families secure affordable housing and gainful employment. Although federal agencies and programs have changed over time, their goals have remained largely the same. Today, many nonprofit organizations, local government agencies, and employers also offer their own forms of relocation assistance.
Families in need may be surprised by the range of expenses covered by modern relocation assistance programs. According to relocation expert Ron Wysocarski, broker and CEO of Wyse Home Team Realty, this can include moving and transportation costs, packing and unpacking services, short-term accommodations, new housing, cultural training, mortgage support, and language classes.
Qualifications for Relocation Assistance
The qualifications for relocation assistance vary by agency or program. However, the eligibility requirements often center around financial needs, residency, and special circumstances.
Many programs prioritize individuals or families with limited financial resources. Qualifying for these programs might require income below a certain threshold, often expressed as a percentage of the federal poverty level. Programs might also take into account household size, debt-to-income ratio, total assets, or financial hardship. Applicants may be asked to submit their tax returns or other proof of income to demonstrate financial need.
Some programs target individuals in very specific circumstances, such as natural disaster victims, unhoused veterans, refugees, or domestic violence survivors. Residency or citizenship requirements may apply.
Eligibility requirements may also vary depending on state or local law. One common scenario, according to Wysocarski, is when someone’s house is condemned or seized under eminent domain. “For example, if a city decides to build a new highway and the individual’s home is in the path of the highway, the individual may be forced to move. In this case, the government may be required to provide relocation assistance to the individual, which could include reimbursement for moving expenses, temporary housing, and other costs associated with the move.”
The best way to determine whether someone qualifies for relocation assistance is to research specific programs. The U.S. government has a helpful Benefit Finder tool to help individuals discover programs for which they might qualify. The 211 national hotline phone number and the 211 website can help you find community-based resources.
National relocation assistance programs are those administered or funded by the federal government. They have strict eligibility criteria and may be limited in scope. Here are a few examples:
Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG)
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) oversees multiple programs that offer relocation assistance benefits—including the Emergency Solutions Grant. This grant helps fund local government programs that offer rental assistance, emergency shelters, and other support services to families in their communities.
To learn more about ESG-funded programs in your area, contact your local HUD field office.
Good Neighbor Next Door (GNND) Program
Good Neighbor Next Door is a HUD program that benefits law enforcement officers, teachers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians. Qualifying individuals receive a 50% discount off the list price when purchasing a home, as long as it lies within a designated revitalization area. Participants must agree to occupy the home for at least 36 months as their primary residence.
The discount functions as a second mortgage. If the homebuyer does not fulfill the terms of the program, they may have to repay the amount covered by HUD.
Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program
Another HUD-funded program is the Housing Choice Voucher program, also known as Section 8. This program offers rental assistance to low-income families in the form of a voucher, or housing subsidy. Recipients find their own housing, and the local public housing agency (PHA) pays the subsidy directly to their landlord on their behalf.
Although Section 8 vouchers do not cover moving expenses, many families who qualify for this program are also eligible for relocation assistance benefits from other agencies or nonprofits.
Individuals and Households Program (IHP)
The Individuals and Household Program provides financial assistance to renters or homeowners who have been affected by natural disasters. This program is part of the disaster recovery efforts led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). IHP funding can help cover home repairs, temporary housing, hazard mitigation, and related expenses that are not fully covered by insurance.
Disaster victims only qualify for IHP benefits if their primary home is located in a Presidentially declared disaster area. Their home must be unlivable or inaccessible, and they must meet certain citizenship and occupancy requirements.
Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP)
The Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program is an employment-focused grant managed by the Department of Labor (DOL). It provides employment and training services to help unhoused or incarcerated military veterans successfully transition to the civilian labor force. Grantees help each participant develop an Individual Employment Plan (IEP) tailored to their unique strengths, preferences, and barriers.
To learn more about this program, contact the nearest Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) office.
Real Estate Acquisition and Relocation Program
The Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisitions Act (URA) covers situations like the one Wysocarski described earlier. If someone is displaced by a federally funded project—such as the construction of a new highway—this program provides relocation assistance. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) oversees URA benefits in collaboration with HUD.
If you have questions about this program, contact a HUD regional relocation specialist.
U.S. Military Relocation Assistance Program
All branches of the U.S. military offer a relocation assistance program, also known as permanent change of station (PCS) benefits, for service members and their families. Through this program, local service providers help arrange moving services and make referrals for childcare, employment opportunities, housing options, medical services, and schools. PCS benefits include several reimbursement and allowance programs for moving expenses.
The military’s relocation assistance program is for service members and their families during times of transition, such as PCS orders or separation from the military. This includes members of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, National Guard, and Reserves.
USDA Rural Housing Service Programs
As part of its Rural Housing Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides rural housing loans and rental assistance. These programs are designed to help low-income families buy or rent housing in rural areas. As a result, not all homes qualify. The property must be located in an eligible area, and the homebuyer or renter must meet certain income criteria.
Housing programs for both single-family and multifamily homes exist. Housing loans may be offered directly by the USDA or through an approved lender, depending on the situation. To learn more, contact your local USDA Rural Development field office.
Charities and Nonprofits
Federal programs and government agencies are not the only sources of relocation assistance. Many well-known charities and nonprofit organizations offer similar benefits, including financial aid, referrals, and direct services.
Nonprofit organizations have greater flexibility in their eligibility requirements and the types of assistance offered. They are generally more agile, can respond more quickly, and can adapt their services more easily than federal agencies. They also offer a more individualized and involved approach, tailoring their services to the needs of the individuals and communities they serve.
Catholic Charities USA
Catholic Charities USA’s mission is to help those struggling with poverty. It offers several forms of housing assistance, including temporary and permanent housing options and help with rent, mortgage, and utility payments. These services help senior citizens, veterans, low-income families, and other vulnerable populations secure affordable housing.
Though the organization is religiously affiliated, it does not limit its aid to members of the Catholic Church. To learn more about the services offered or how you can get involved, contact your local Catholic Charities agency.
Modest Needs is an organization best known for its Self-Sufficiency Grant. Although anyone experiencing financial hardship can apply for a Self-Sufficiency Grant, Modest Needs gives special consideration to first responders, teachers, and veterans. The funds come with no strings attached and can be used to cover either emergency expenses or monthly bills during an emergency situation.
You can learn more about the grants offered by Modest Needs and who qualifies on its FAQ page for individual applicants.
Housing Industry Foundation
The Housing Industry Foundation (HIF) has an Emergency Housing Fund to help those facing housing instability due to a temporary financial setback, such as a job loss or medical bills. The foundation and its network of partners provide emergency assistance grants and other support services to help families avoid homelessness.
HIF operates primarily in California’s Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. You can learn more about its partner agencies and application process on its website.
The YWCA provides emergency shelter, transitional housing, and long-term housing for domestic violence survivors. YWCA case managers can also refer survivors to other services and community resources, including legal advocates, counseling, financial coaching, and employment assistance.
To learn more, you can contact your local YWCA. The YWCA also operates a national crisis hotline phone number: 202-467-0801.
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity offers several services and programs as part of its comprehensive approach to affordable housing solutions. Families with low to moderate income can apply to be Habitat homeowners. In this program, the organization helps you build your own home and provides financial literacy courses. Habitat for Humanity also offers disaster relief in the form of shelter assistance, education, and training.
You can learn more by contacting your local Habitat branch or calling 1-800-HABITAT.
Other Relocation Assistance Programs
Federal programs and national nonprofits are not the only options for relocation assistance; you can also look to local organizations for help. This includes your state, county, or municipal government and local nonprofits. Contact your local United Way chapter or community action agency to learn more about nonprofits in your area and the services they offer.
Here are a few other resources available:
Some states or cities will pay you to move there. These incentive programs can make a long-distance move more feasible, especially for remote workers. Examples include West Virginia, Alaska, Southwest Michigan, Northwest Arkansas, Tulsa, and Topeka, Kansas.
Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious organizations often have deep ties to their communities. Even if they do not have an official relocation assistance program, these organizations may be able to arrange emergency housing or provide financial support.
Some employers offer relocation assistance as part of their benefits package, especially when taking the job requires moving to a new state. An employer may also provide a moving stipend if they need to transfer a current employee to a different location. However, the amount and eligible expenses may vary by employer.
The IRS offers a tax deduction for moving expenses related to starting a new job (see IRS Form 3903). To qualify, a person’s new job must be at least 50 miles further from home than their old one, and the move must be closely tied to starting that new job.
Many reputable interstate moving companies offer generous discounts to make moving more affordable. For instance, Moving APT requires all of its partners to provide discounted services for senior citizens, military members, and differently abled customers. Anyone moving on a tight budget should shop around and compare discounts before signing a contract.
Relocation assistance programs provide support to individuals and families faced with hardships such as eviction, displacement, and homelessness. Assistance may include financial aid, temporary housing, employment services, and more. The comprehensive services provided by government agencies, nonprofits, employers, and other organizations promote self-sufficiency and help struggling families transition to new homes more smoothly.
Each relocation assistance program has its own unique qualifications, benefits, and application processes. Individuals in need of support should reach out to the organizations directly, use the government’s Benefits Finder tool, or call 211 to explore their options.
Relocation Assistance Programs FAQ
What is the difference between a relocation assistance program and a relocation package?
The difference between a relocation assistance program and a relocation package lies in each one’s focus. Relocation assistance programs focus specifically on the services and support families need when they are forced to move or threatened with becoming unhoused. Relocation packages are supplied by employers to employees relocating for a job. They may include a set amount of money to cover moving costs and related expenses or a bonus.
What are some relocation tips?
Here are some relocation tips for a smoother move:Research the cost of living, laws, and taxes in your new city.Explore your new neighborhood virtually or in person before moving.Create a detailed moving budget and moving checklist to stay organized.Compare quotes from several affordable moving companies to find the best deal.Start decluttering and packing a few weeks in advance.Look for opportunities to meet new people and add them to your calendar.
What is included in a basic relocation package?
There is no standard definition or legal requirement for what is included in a basic relocation package. However, here are a few expenses that an employee relocation package often covers:Home-selling assistanceHouse-hunting tripMiscellaneous expensesMoving company feesMoving insurancePacking and unpacking servicesTemporary housingTemporary storageTravel expenses