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Baltimore County expands eviction prevention with $3 million more for renters, community groups

Baltimore County is allocating an additional $1 million for tenants who applied for rental assistance in June because of lost income during the coronavirus pandemic. Another $2 million will be made available in grant funding for community-based or government eviction prevention programs.

The county estimates the extra money will support 800 more households after the “significant response” from renters seeking aid when the county announced its eviction prevention program in June, according to a news release.

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The program initially offered a pool of $1 million to renters facing eviction, funded through the county’s share of federal coronavirus relief funds and the state Department of Social Services’s emergency assistance fund. The county received about 1,400 applications for rental assistance, according to a county spokesman.

Baltimore County will receive $144 million in federal relief funding, according to estimations in budget documents.

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The county will also allocate $2 million more into grants for community-based resources aimed at preventing homelessness and eviction through the county’s Community Development Block Grant.

Grants will be awarded to nonprofits and government agencies for projects addressing short-term emergency needs, and to prevent and decrease homelessness. The grants can be used to provide up to three months in subsistence payments or pay security deposits for those whose housing has been directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Projects that preserve a resident’s existing housing or provide case management, mental health, transportation and workforce development services will be given preference.

County government will continue looking for additional ways to offer resources for families affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic, County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. said.

“Families across Baltimore County are facing significant financial challenges as a result of the pandemic, and it’s critical that we help as many of those families as we can,” Olszewski said in a statement.

As Maryland’s economy suffers, unemployment rates in Baltimore County have outpaced the state’s since March, when Gov. Larry Hogan began issuing orders to curb the spread of coronavirus by shuttering nonessential businesses and limiting travel.

The county’s unemployment rate in May was 9.9%, jumping from 4.9% in March. Maryland’s unemployment rate was 9.7% in May and 3.5% in March.

Still, May’s unemployment rate, the most recent state data available, is down from the county’s 10.5% unemployment rate reported in April.

Evictions for tenants who can prove they’ve lost income due to the pandemic have been halted for the duration of Hogan’s COVID-19 state of emergency order. But housing advocates say a backlog of eviction cases will likely be filed once Maryland’s District Court resumes hearing nonemergency cases, and the stay on residential evictions is lifted beginning July 25.

In partnership with Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition’s Fair Housing Action Center, Baltimore County is offering to connect tenants with legal counsel and other services, help renters apply for tax credits and assist negotiations with landlords.

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