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Wrap-up of news stories taken from the day's local headlines.

Baltimore launches temporary renter's assistance program

The initiative is meant to help renters who have lost income because of COVID-19. The Temporary Rent Support program aims to distribute $15 million to help qualified applicants pay their landlords. The city says not all applicants will meet qualifications and priority will be given to some households including those with at least one person over the age of 60 or at least one child under the age of 18.  Renters may apply for the program from July 1 through July 13.

“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,” said Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young. “With this program, along with the support aimed at overall homelessness prevention, we will serve low-income households facing financial hardship or loss of income and prevent a wave of evictions during this pandemic.”

With the eviction moratorium currently set to expire in late July, and delinquencies at twice the pre-pandemic rates, Baltimore City’s Temporary Rent Support program is a one-time emergency program to help renters get current on their April, May and June rents and bring a measure of stability to the rental property market. The City is also shoring up its homeless prevention efforts, including eviction prevention and relocation support services, to assure that it is in the best position to help low-income residents as evictions resume.

Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin is calling on lawmakers to do more to prevent evictions related to COVID-19.  Cardin says the Protecting Renters from Evictions and Fees Act of 2020 would extend the federal moratorium to March 27 of next year and expand it to cover more renters. The bill would also prohibit fees, fines and extra charges due to nonpayment of rent. The HEROES Act passed by the House includes the same extension and expansions of the federal eviction moratorium

“We’ve been working for weeks with tenant advocates, community partners, and small- and large-scale landlords to design and implement a program that can reach the largest number of those most vulnerable,” said Housing Commissioner Michael Braverman. “As a city, we’ve been able to assemble a range of resources for both rent support and homeless prevention with the shared objective of mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on tenants’ ability to pay rent and the cascading effects of eviction.”

Funding for the Temporary Rent Support component of the program includes Community Development Block Grant COVID funds ($13.1 million through the CARES Act). Under the terms of the program, landlords will accept 80% of contract rent, waive late fees and penalties, and agree not to file for any subsequent non-payment during July and August. The program will cover up to three months’ rent for April, May, and June. The city will pay the full balance of the delinquency, up to 80% of the contract rent unless the tenant received unemployment benefits, in which case the tenant must pay a portion. Payments will be made on behalf of tenants to landlords.

City residents can apply for Temporary Rent Support beginning July 1, 2020.  The application window will close on July 13, 2020. Information on how to apply and eligibility requirements can be found on the City’s website.

“Along with the Temporary Rent Support program to help people with shorter-term needs, we’re working to establish a more robust tenant-based eviction prevention program to address longer-term housing instability issues within Baltimore City,” said Mayor Young.

The City’s longer-term homelessness prevention program is dedicating CARES Act funding ($3M from Emergency Solutions Grant – COVID) to rent payments and has received the support of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Commission for an expected $2.75M in additional funds to assist income-eligible renters facing hardship that may not be otherwise eligible for the Temporary Rent Support program. The Mayor’s Office of Children & Family Success and the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services are collaborating, with support from the Department of Housing & Community Development, to establish homelessness prevention programs that can help stabilize the housing situation of people facing eviction once the courts reopen in the fall.

In addition to helping process the Temporary Rent Support applications, CAP centers administer a year-round eviction prevention program. Residents who need rental assistance, but don’t qualify for the temporary COVID-19 assistance, should complete the Rental Assistance Inquiry form here.