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Carroll County receives over $4 million to assist those experiencing rental hardship due to COVID-19

Family shelter case manager Aysia Jefferson puts away a delivery of food at Human Services Programs of Carroll County in Westminster Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Human Services Programs is partnering with the county government to distribute over $4 million to renters who need assistance as a result of COVID-19.
Family shelter case manager Aysia Jefferson puts away a delivery of food at Human Services Programs of Carroll County in Westminster Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Human Services Programs is partnering with the county government to distribute over $4 million to renters who need assistance as a result of COVID-19. (Dylan Slagle/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Carroll County government recently received over $4 million to assist those renting in the county who lost income or experienced rental hardship due to COVID-19.

The funds secured will go toward implementing the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, providing support for up to 12 months of rental arrears and up to 3 months of forward rent to those households meeting eligibility guidelines. Household income must be at or below 80% of the area median income.

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“People in housing are better than people not in housing,” Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said on Wednesday. “Some people don’t have the money [to pay their rent] because of COVID.”

On May 10, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development notified Carroll County government that the Emergency Rental Assistance Program application submitted by the county commissioners was approved for a $4,260,520 award. The funding, recently authorized by the U.S. Treasury, is targeted to ensure housing stability for families and individuals at risk of and currently experiencing homelessness in our county, according to a news release. The commissioners previously authorized the use of the funding for eviction prevention for individuals in Carroll County.

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Frazier said when people are put out on the street, “things go downhill from there” and he’d prefer citizens be able to stay in their homes. As the county starts to open after over a year of pandemic-related closures, he said people will be able to go back to work and “things in their lives can continue to progress.”

Working in partnership with county government, Human Services Programs of Carroll County, a nonprofit organization located in Westminster, is acting as the administrator the program and began accepting applications on May 17. Applications will continue to be accepted until funding is depleted.

Celene Steckel, director of citizen services for the county, said she’s “been working with HSP over the past month or so” tracking down the renters who need assistance most.

“We’re really trying to make sure people who have been housed, stay housed,” she said, noting the funds allow for residents with higher income levels to qualify “compared to the typical folks in a regular year.”

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She encouraged anyone who thinks they might qualify to give them a call.

“People who have never experienced instability with paying rent are now experiencing that,” because of the pandemic, Steckel said. “We want to make sure they know we are here to help.”

She added the department anticipates being able to help everyone who needs assistance as she believes there aren’t as many people currently on the waitlist as they have money to serve.

“We’re incredibly excited to have this opportunity and this funding,” Jennifer Graybill, director of shelter and housing for the Human Services Programs, said. “This is an incredible amount of relief for not only renters, but the landlords.”

The director said anyone behind on rent or utility bills as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 may be eligible. That includes being on unemployment, being sick with COVID-19 or any experiencing reduction in income caused by the pandemic.

So far, Graybill said, they have received inquiries from 151 households and calls from an additional 59 landlords.

“We have to work in partnership with the landlords and the tenants. … Landlords are able to initiate applications as well,” she said. “We desperately want to make contact and help as many people as possible.”

To access additional information about the program, please visit the county Housing and Community Development webpage.

Those who wish to apply should contact the Human Services Programs of Carroll County by telephone at 410-386-6620 or by email at renthelp@hspinc.org or visit their website hspinc.org.

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