Days after the country’s eviction moratorium expired, Baltimore County is adding $19.5 million to its eviction prevention program to help renters affected by the coronavirus pandemic stay in their apartments and pay utilities.
The federal grant funding will be prioritized for households with at least one person who has been out of work for 90 days before applying for rental assistance and for households that earn less than 50% of the area median income — just under $50,000 for a family of four.
Eligible households could receive up to 18 months of assistance, including arrearages and forthcoming rent charges, according to the bill’s fiscal note. The Baltimore County Council last week unanimously voted to appropriate the money.
“All you have to prove is you took a financial impact” as a result of the pandemic, Hickey said.
Those who are eligible to apply for eviction prevention money must have a household income at or below 80% of the area median income based on income limits set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Families who have already received federally funded rental assistance, however, aren’t eligible for the new round of funding.
The county expects the grants will help more than 800 people and is required by the U.S. Department of Treasury, which administers the funds, to use at least 85% of its federal share for rental and assistance programs; remaining money may be used for administrative costs.
Baltimore County first launched its eviction prevention program in June last year using $1 million from its allocation of CARES Act money when, at the time, 9.9% of county residents were unemployed. A county spokesman said 1,400 applications for rental assistance were submitted then.
In June, the county’s employment rate was 6.5% (around the same as in January), according to the Maryland Department of Labor’s unemployment statistics.
In February the county received $24.7 million to prevent evictions. Millions were drawn from that pot of money to expand the county’s Strategic Targeted Eviction Prevention, or STEP, program, which paid up to nine months of back rent to landlords of around 900 tenants who agreed to discount the amount owed in return.
The county will pay grants directly to landlords and utility companies or through nonprofits, which will make payments on the eligible households’ behalf.
Council members also voted last week to appropriate $2.2 million in state funds to cover hotel costs for homeless individuals, to provide emergency shelter for homeless families and to pay for up to 30 days of short-term rental assistance.
Council Chair Julian Jones during the meeting warned renters facing eviction not to vacate their rental units if they’re seeking rental assistance.
More than 3.6 million Americans are at risk of eviction, some in a matter of days. The moratorium was put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of the COVID-19 crisis when jobs shifted and many workers lost income.
The eviction ban was intended to prevent further virus spread by people put out on the streets and into shelters. Congress approved nearly $47 billion in federal housing aid to the states during the pandemic, but it has been slow to make it into the hands of renters and landlords owed payments.
Baltimore Sun reporter Alison Knezevich and The Associated Press contributed to this article.