Hogan extends order barring shutoffs or late fees for utilities to Aug. 1

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Photo by Ricky Romero, via Flickr

Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday extended a ban on shutoffs of utilities and late fees for non-payment until Aug. 1.

The order applies to companies that provide electricity, gas, sewage disposal, water, phone, cable TV and internet and is in effect until the start of August or when the state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic is lifted, whichever comes first.

In Baltimore, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young launched a discount program for water and sewer billing and waived Bay Restoration and Storm Water Remediation fees to help residents during the pandemic.

Advocates with immigrant advocacy group CASA used today’s announcement to once again push for an extension of the state’s moratorium on evictions, which is set to expire on July 25.

Last Friday, Hogan pledged to direct $30 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to prevent evictions, directing $20 million to local governments and using another $10 million for a housing relief assistance program.

But activists said those funds are a far cry from the $153 million they called for to help Maryland renters.

In a March letter to Hogan, representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the Homeless Persons Representation Project and the Public Justice Center estimated the $153 million figure would serve as an initial payment to cover rent for 141,030 Maryland families for four months.

The money would also go toward free legal services for tenants facing eviction, affordable housing and other services, the organizations said.

About 20 percent of renters in Maryland’s 45,000 state-financed units are delinquent on their rent, costing about $3 million per month, Hogan’s office announced on Friday.

“Too many Marylanders have faced undue financial hardships during this unprecedented crisis, including the inability to pay their rent,” Hogan said in a statement then. “While our eviction moratorium has helped families remain in safe and stable housing through the pandemic, we are also maximizing federal resources to help as many renters as possible.”

CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres said the eviction moratorium needs to be extended so families can recover from the financial effects of the pandemic.

“[I]n less than 30 days, families will be thrown to the streets when the eviction freeze is lifted and mass evictions ensue,” he said in a statement.

One of the organization’s members, Beatriz Fuentes, said she lost her job after getting COVID-19 and had to borrow money to pay rent on her home in Owings Mills. Her rent was also increased recently, the group said.

“I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent next month and am worried that my family could be evicted if the Governor doesn’t extend the moratorium,” Fuentes said in a statement.

CASA and partner organizations have called a press conference for Wednesday–the first day of July, when rent is due for many–outside the District Court House in Baltimore to call for more rental assistance and an extension of the eviction moratorium for one year beyond the end of the state of emergency.

Brandon Weigel

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