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United Way of Central Maryland to provide rent relief as pause on evictions nears expiration

United Way of Central Maryland is expanding rent support for Baltimore City and Baltimore, Harford and Howard County residents as the national and statewide pauses on evictions approach their expiration dates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on evictions due to the coronavirus pandemic will expire this month, and Maryland’s ban on evictions will run out in August, and yet one in five Maryland residents are behind on rent, according to a news release from United Way.

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The nonprofit is partnering with local governments to expand its Strategic Targeted Eviction Prevention (STEP) program, which will pay landlords up to 12 months of back rent for residents who qualify.

The expansion of the program, which has provided more than $4 million in support to residents in late 2020 and early 2021, will be funded with $43 million from the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program and is estimated to help approximately 3,100 additional households avoid eviction.

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“As we continue to address the needs of those affected most by this pandemic, stable, secure housing is one of our top focus areas. January’s efforts through our Strategic Targeted Eviction Program directly, and quickly, addressed this need for approximately 935 households, and we are pleased to expand this critical initiative to Baltimore City and the surrounding counties to keep people in their homes as our region works to recover and rebuild,” said Franklyn Baker, president and CEO of United Way of Central Maryland, in a news release.

The government-funded program does not require tenants to apply, but works directly with landlords and property managers to pay off the accounts of households on the verge of eviction and homelessness.

Landlords who participate in the program are required to dismiss any filed eviction complaints, waive any fees and agree to not evict tenants for 90 days after their accounts are settled. United Way said the program will use data to target aid to areas that face structural poverty and have seen the highest rates of COVID-19 as well as housing instability.

The program will also help pay for past-due utilities and up to three months of future rent for tenants who qualify.

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While the first round of the program that launched in January provided an average of $4,300 in aid per household, United Way estimates that eligible households will qualify for an average of $13,500 in aid with the new expansion.

“Lack of access to safe, affordable housing has historically been the reality for too many Baltimore families. The pandemic magnified this reality, forcing us to build out a multi-faceted response that includes the support and engagement of community-based organizations,” said Tisha Edwards, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Children & Family Success, which is administering the program in Baltimore City.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball estimates that the expanded program could help nearly 450 county residents avoid eviction.

“Howard County has invested more than $6 million to keep our residents safely housed throughout this pandemic, but there are still many of our neighbors struggling,” Ball said in a news release. “As we continue on the road to recovery, we must stay focused on ensuring that people in our community don’t slip through the cracks.”

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