Two Maryland lawmakers who lead the House committee overseeing housing issues have written a letter calling on Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration to extend an eviction moratorium until next year and to provide more housing aid for those dealing with the economic effects of coronavirus.
The letter, signed by Democratic Delegates Kumar Barve and Dana Stein, calls on the Hogan administration to extend the moratorium on evictions until Jan. 31, 2021 and to “identify all sources of funds which may be used to support local rental assistance programs” during the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter, dated July 7, is addressed to state housing secretary Kenneth Holt. Barve and Stein serve as chairman and vice chairman on the committee.
“Again, while we recognize the actions taken by the Hogan administration to dedicate $30 million in CARES Act funds for rental assistance and funding for certain housing providers, this amount seemingly pales in comparison to the need stated by both tenant advocates and representatives of property owners and managers,” the letter reads, referring to a federal coronavirus aid bill.
Owen McEvoy, spokesman for the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, wrote in an email that the department received the letter this week and is reviewing it.
“Since the new eviction prevention initiatives were announced late last month, we have been proactively working with the courts system to share information and help connect people behind on their rent to these new programs,” McEvoy wrote.
Earlier this month, Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said more than $60 million was being spent to prevent evictions when including local government efforts.
The current moratorium restricts Maryland’s District Court system from renewing eviction proceedings until July 25, when the current stay on residential evictions is scheduled to be lifted.
While the state and some municipalities have created assistance funds to aid residents who are behind on rent and mortgage payments due to losing work to the COVID-19 pandemic, tenants’ rights groups have warned the $30 million in funding from the state may be less than one-quarter of what’s needed to aid all of the state’s affected residents.
The Aspen Institute predicts that as many as 330,000 Marylanders could be at risk of being evicted by the end of the year. The state has seen hundreds of thousands of jobless claims since the governor ordered most businesses closed in late March, April and early May to mitigate the spread of the disease.
The state’s District Court wrote last month that warrants of restitution for failure to repay rent cases would be processed after July 25 and that the court will begin hearing failure to pay rent cases on Aug. 31.
In their letter, the two lawmakers wrote that while they commend “the early action taken by the Hogan administration,” it says that “the uncertainty surrounding the proliferation of this virus and the need to keep individuals housed for their health and safety suggest a longer limitation on evictions is needed.”
House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones, who is copied on the letter, has previously voiced her support for extending the current moratorium.
The lawmakers also say more transparency is needed on the funds that are currently allocated to tackle the issue, writing that they have “significant concerns that some of those funds will not end up providing renters with relief.
“The lack of firm details, transparency and accountability measures around the $30 million in announced rental relief spending is alarming,” the two wrote. “Please provide our committee with the plan by which it intends to administer these funds, including any application requirements, plans and conditions for their distribution and limitations which will be placed on their use.”