Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that he is putting $30 million in a fund available through the federal CARES act to help prevent evictions. But members of a House of Delegates committee questioned whether that would be enough in a virtual briefing Monday.
Ten million dollars of the fund will provide rent relief for tenants by paying eligible property management companies. The remaining $20 million will go to all of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions to help prevent evictions.
Meanwhile, Maryland jurisdictions have been creating their own rent relief programs. On Monday, Baltimore Mayor Jack Young announced that he is investing more than $15 million to help tenants pay rent.
He said the city would launch a $13 million temporary rental assistance program on Wednesday that would cover up three months of rent for April, May and June. Residents can apply until July 13. The city is also putting $3 million of CARES act funding into a longer-term homelessness prevention program.
"Like millions of families across the country, many Baltimore families are struggling to pay rent and have faced record unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic," Young said in a statement. "With this program, along with the support aimed at overal homelessness prevention, we will serve low-income households facing financial hardship or loss of income and prevent a wave of evictions during this pandemic."
Tenants and housing advocates have called on the state to set aside $175 million in rent relief. Delegate Brooke Lierman, of the House Environment and Transportation Committee, pointed out that the state has more than $1 billion in CARES act funding.
“This has been going on for months and it’s shocking to me that there’s so little planned about this program right now,” Lierman said. “I hope there’s more money that comes out because $30 million is not enough.”
Hogan’s moratorium on evictions expires July 25. Delegate Vaughn Stewart said that if the state does not extend the moratorium or provide greater rent assistance, an eviction crisis will be inevitable.
“Housing is health care, and ensuring housing stability for everyone is not only a moral imperative but a public health necessity,” Stewart said. “Are we just throwing up our hands at this point and letting the tsunami happen?”
In response, J. Hunter Pickels, Director and Housing Policy Officer at the Department of Housing and Community Development, noted that Hogan first issued the moratorium on March 16.
“From the very beginning, the governor’s taken a strong stand to try and protect Maryland renters,” Pickels said.
He said that the $30 million will be substantial and said that it is supplemental to other forms of relief for renters, like unemployment insurance.
“We’ll have to see how the payments work out, how folks are impacted by the steps we are taking,” he said.