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Politics

Baltimore to run out of federal eviction prevention funds by mid-March, officials say

Baltimore will exhaust its federal eviction relief money by mid-March, officials told members of Baltimore City Council, making the city the latest to sound the alarm about dwindling funds.

Since 2020, the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success has received $82 million dollars in local, state and federal funding for emergency rental assistance as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In some cases, the money is sent to tenants who lost income during the pandemic and have fallen behind on rent. In others, it goes to landlords preparing to evict tenants for nonpayment.

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As of August, $57 million had been disbursed — 73% of total funding, officials reported. On Tuesday, officials said they expect to spend the remainder of their federal funding in the next two months, well ahead of a year-end deadline.

“This is bad. This is super bad,” Democratic Councilwoman Odette Ramos said. “It’s not just a little bad. We don’t have anything yet in the state budget allocated. I’m assuming we’ve been to federal partners and said ‘Hey, you’ve got to do this.’”

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Debra Brooks, director of the Office of Children and Family Success, said the city has asked sister agencies and the state to find money to keep the program afloat. There is money beyond the federal funding that officials are hoping to reallocate, she said.

“We know the need is continuing,” she said. “We are looking at ways to continue this program and provide supports needed.”

Baltimore officials are part of a chorus of housing advocates, politicians and nonprofit groups that have raised the alarm that Maryland is running out of federal eviction relief funding and calling on the state to put up money.

Maryland was the recipient of $750 million in emergency rental assistance funds via major spending bills passed by Congress in response to the pandemic. As of June 30, more than 82,000 Maryland households had received emergency rental assistance, according to state data.

In recent months, that money has begun to run out, and there’s no indication the federal government will distribute more.

In December, dozens of organizations, four lawmakers and the Democratic county executives of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties, as well as Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott of Baltimore, sent a letter to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan asking him to set aside $175 million for emergency rental assistance. The funding, the group said, would prevent evictions for about 17,000 households.

Hogan left office last week, and a proposed budget presented Friday by Democratic Gov. Wes Moore does not include rental assistance funding.

In Baltimore, much of the federal rental assistance money is distributed through a program in the mayor’s office called the Baltimore City Community Action Partnership. Partnership officials told members of Baltimore City Council’s Economic and Community Development Committee that 16,000 people remain on a waiting list for funding in Baltimore.

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Applicants are prioritized by various needs. Those who have been unemployed for 90 days or earning a very low income move up the list, officials said.

Members of the council reacted to the looming end of the funding with alarm.

“You’ve got 16,000 applicants. That money is not going to fund all 16,000 applicants,” Ramos said.

Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, a Democrat and the committee’s chair, called the situation a “crisis.”

Democratic Councilman Kristerfer Burnett offered the council’s assistance to lobby for funding from the state.

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“The impact of the pandemic hasn’t ended and outside of the pandemic, there’s a separate affordability crisis for people in Baltimore City that is leading people into eviction,” he said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Giacomo Bologna contributed to this article.


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