Although Gov. Larry Hogan has prohibited evictions and utility shutoffs during the state of emergency, a group of advocacy organizations are urging the governor to extend those measures after the emergency designation has ended.
The organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the Homeless Persons Representation Project and the Public Justice Center, on Friday sent a letter to Hogan urging him to expand the prohibitions by using more than $153 million in federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
In March, Hogan prohibited landlords from evicting tenants and prohibited utility companies from shutting off services to residential customers or charging those customers late fees during the state of emergency.
In their letter, the organizations commended Hogan for the actions he has taken so far to stop evictions and utility shutoffs. Under those measures, Maryland families have been able to shelter in place, “doing their part to flatten the curve of the pandemic,” they wrote.
But as Maryland eyes the prospect of gradually reopening the state, the organizations said the state must do more to support Marylanders who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and who may continue to feel those effects during the state’s recovery process.
Matt Hill, attorney at Public Justice Center, said in a statement that “there is no clear plan to mitigate the public health disaster that a massive wave of evictions and utility shutoffs would wreak on Maryland families.”
The organizations wrote in their letter that it would cost more than $1.8 billion to provide rental assistance to 141,030 Maryland families in need for a year, but the state could meet the immediate needs of those families by partnering with local jurisdictions to leverage their relief funds of about $153.6 million.
That money would pay for rental assistance, which would be paid directly to landlords on behalf of tenants; free legal services for tenants facing eviction; affordable housing; and other services, the organizations said.
The organizations also call for the eviction moratorium to continue until at least 45 days after mandated or recommended social distancing has ended and state health officials have determined that the moratorium no longer serves a public health or economic need.
Landlords and housing providers should also be required to give tenants at least 30 days notice to evict after the end of the moratorium, the organizations added.
The organizations’ letter comes days after 51 Democratic state delegates urged Hogan to cancel rent and mortgage payments and take other “aggressive housing relief measures.”
“Even after life starts to return to normal, many Marylanders will not be able to pay the
rent or mortgage payments owed or accumulated during the crisis. You must act now to prevent a wave of evictions and foreclosures,” the lawmakers wrote.