The end of 2021 also means the end of the current application period for Montgomery County’s latest round of COVID-19 rental assistance.
But county officials said on Tuesday that another round of relief – with tens of millions of additional dollars – would be offered in early 2022.
According to the county health and social services department Most recent pulse report, the county has spent or budgeted much of its current state and federal rent assistance funding cycle. Including:
- $ 24.2 million out of $ 31.4 million directly from the Emergency Rent Assistance Program
- $ 25.5 million of $ 28.1 million in relief funds channeled through Maryland
The county has distributed several rounds of rental aid since the start of the pandemic.
First, County Council Vice-Chairman Evan Glass funded $ 2 million in rent assistance from the county budget, which was approved in April 2020.
Since then, the federal government and state officials have provided more than $ 100 million in aid, through the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA ).
Congress passed both bills to help address the economic challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Amanda Harris, chief of services to end and prevent homelessness in the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, said in an interview on Tuesday that it “is highly unlikely” that there will be any money left. of existing funds due to demand.
If there were, she said, it would be transferred to the next county funding round, which will be announced in early 2022. It did not have a specific date.
Montgomery County expects to raise $ 34 million through a second round of emergency rent assistance program funding, directly from the federal government, Harris said.
But the state has not announced how much money it will receive from the federal government and how it will distribute that money among the different jurisdictions, she added.
Harris expects the county to receive roughly the same amount of federal and state money as the current funding round, but details of the program are not finalized, Harris said. County officials will attempt to authorize the use of the money for utility assistance for the next cycle, she said.
Matt Losak, executive director of the Montgomery County Renters Alliance, said in an interview that the organization is grateful for the relief provided to thousands of households.
But many of those working in the service industry have not fully recovered from the pandemic and owe thousands of dollars due to job loss or reduced hours, and may need help. extra, he said.
” We’re waiting impatiently [the county’s Department of Health and Human Services] to give details on what the new eligibility program will be and how tenants can access it… and we hope HHS will work quickly to publicize and provide access to this relief, ”Losak said of the upcoming funding round .
County Council Chairman Gabe Albornoz said in an interview that the county needs to look at homelessness and similar issues with holistic solutions.
Albornoz said this involves making sure government, nonprofits and other partners share information and data to best help families at risk of homelessness. The county needs the right staff and tools to help, he added.
Economic development and vocational training for “people of all educational and educational levels” are also important, he said.
Glass said in an interview that even before the pandemic, the county’s rental relief fund was “at maximum” and many people were unable to receive assistance. The council needs to consider how much more money for rent assistance or similar needs should be provided for in the next budget, he said.
What awaits us
Harris predicts tougher times for many families.
“I never thought there would be a tsunami of evictions,” she said. “I think it’s just going to be continuous [and] very, very heavy rain.
Eviction warrants, filed by the sheriff’s office, will stay pretty much the same, but that doesn’t account for families who voluntarily leave the house they rent and aren’t recorded as formal evictions, Harris said . It is difficult to keep track of this data, she added.
According to the latest Pulse report, these writs were dropped during the summer months, but increased from October to December. From August 20 to October 15, there were never more than 19 writs per week.
Then, for most of the weeks up to mid-December, there were over 20 writs, with a maximum of 43 writs in the week of December 3. County officials said on average, less than 8% of writs ended in deportation.
Harris said the guaranteed income pilot program announced and voted on by the Departmental Council is another way of helping residents. The county also has an eviction prevention and housing stabilization service, she said.
Losak said state law should be changed to allow local jurisdictions like Montgomery County to implement a “just cause” provision for county landlords who wish to evict tenants. This would essentially give tenants more rights and force landlords to justify an eviction, he said.
Harris urged those who cannot apply Friday for the current rental relief deadline to call 311 and ask for the Eviction Prevention Team.
But she said more housing was needed than minimum wage folks could afford, Harris said.
“Unless there’s a big investment and a long-term investment from the federal government, I don’t know how we’re going to come out of this,” Harris said. “There has to be more construction of affordable housing, there has to be more investment in housing bonds, and without that I think it will continue. “
Steve Bohnel can be contacted at [email protected]