Baltimore County will receive $17 million to bolster eviction prevention measures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced Thursday.
The funds will come from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s allocation of federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds.
“As we continue our recovery here in Baltimore County, we know that a critical part of our strategy has been and will continue to be around a comprehensive housing stability program,” Olszewski said.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Baltimore County has invested more than $115 million in housing stability initiatives, county officials reported.
The county has aided 5,500 families through its housing stability initiative since March 2020. The additional funding announced by Olszewski will help at least 1,500 households in need, according to a county press release.
“We know that while the state of emergency is officially over and that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, the truth is that the destabilizing impact of COVID-19 is still very much with us and is likely to be felt for years to come,” Olszweski said. “This is especially true for those individuals who find themselves behind on rent and in danger of losing their housing due to illness, job loss, struggles with childcare, or other COVID-19 related issues.”
County officials said $11 million of the newly announced funding will be issued to the United Way of Central Maryland’s Strategic Targeted Eviction Prevention (STEP) program, and $6 million will be dedicated to Baltimore County’s Eviction Prevention Program (EPP).
United Way of Central Maryland is a non-profit that serves Baltimore City and its surrounding counties, with programs that aim to “increase access to basic needs: housing, health, employment, and education,” according to their website.
Through the STEP program, United Way of Central Maryland bundles the accounts of multiple tenants with overdue balances to provide a single payout directly to the landlord.
United Way of Central Maryland states that the program aids the most vulnerable by targeting households that reside in ZIP codes that are afflicted with higher rates of “COVID-19, evictions, and structural/racialized poverty.”
Baltimore County’s Eviction Prevention Program serves residents at-risk of eviction due to financial hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. EEP partners with local non-profits, like House of Ruth, Jewish Community Services, and the Community Assistance Network, to provide rental assistance, financial counseling, assistance with landlord negotiation, and reference to legal services.
Eligibility requirements have been expanded to provide aid to a wider range of families, according to the press release.
To be eligible for the program, applicants must be Baltimore County residents; be at or below 80% of the area median income for their household size; and be at risk of losing their rental housing due to financial hardship or income loss related to COVID-19, or qualify for unemployment. Criteria is further detailed on Baltimore County’s website.
To access EPP’s services, county residents can apply via the RentRelief portal through June 30. Along with the portal, the county has launched a call center to help applicants through the application process.
During the press conference, Baltimore County’s Director of Housing and Community Development Terry Hickey announced that the county has developed a team of workers who will visit local libraries and community centers by appointment to walk prospective applicants through the application process.
Aside from the allocated $17 million, Baltimore County has invested in a number of other aid programs throughout the pandemic.
The county has invested almost $650,000 to provide pro bono legal aid for tenants in need. The county also works with the Maryland Consumer’s Rights Coalition’s Fair Housing Action Center to provide support to struggling renters.
“The $17 million dollars is amazing, but it also underscores the continuing need,” Hickey said. “Let’s not pretend this is over. Let’s not pretend we’re through it. We have a lot of work to do to get this money out in the next several months, and with our partners we’ll keep doing just that.”