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Montgomery County Executive Elrich, Council President Hucker, Council Vice President Albornoz Announce Availability of $59 Million in Rental Assistance and Available Support to Avoid Eviction

For Immediate Release: Friday, April 16, 2021

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich was joined today by County Council President Tom Hucker, County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz, Frank Vitale from Maryland Legal Aid, Ana Martinez from CASA and recipients of previous COVID-19 Rent Relief funds to announce that COVID Rent Relief Phase 3 is open for applications. There is $59 million available to help tenants who are behind on rent. These funds, received from the U.S. Department of Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Program, will provide up to $12,000 or 15 months of assistance to eligible households behind on rent due to COVID-related income loss. Applicants can apply online, see frequently asked questions, and get additional program details at www.mc311.com/rentrelief. People in households without internet access or who need assistance completing the application should call 311 or 240-777-0311.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted the economic wellbeing of our poorest and most vulnerable renters and we must do everything in our power to keep them in their homes,” said County Executive Elrich. “This third phase of rental relief funds will help as we continue to make sure more money is on the way to these families. We are grateful to our Congressional Delegation and State Delegation, along with the Federal and State governments, for their financial support and assistance.”

The $59 million supplements the $21 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding the County has already dedicated to the COVID Rent Relief Program. The first two phases of the program have provided more than $16 million to date to more than 4,000 County households. Phase 3 funding includes $31 million in direct allocation to Montgomery County and $28 million from the State’s allocation to the County from the U.S. Department of Treasury.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated housing instability and many residents are in dire need of assistance," Council President Hucker said. "The only way to meet the needs of our tenants is through a collaborative effort with our federal and state lawmakers, nonprofit organizations and community advocates. The COVID-19 Rent Relief Program is a result of that collaborative effort and provides us another opportunity to help tenants stay in their homes."

The Rent Relief Program provides rent support to low-income households that have experienced income loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has continued to maintain an active waitlist and the process for requesting assistance has been streamlined since the first phase was introduced last year. Approved households may receive up to $12,000 for rent arrears and a rent credit for future months, paid directly to the landlord. Final grant amounts will consider rental assistance already received from any local, State or Federal program. All assistance is based on the availability of funds. Households that have already received a COVID-19 Rent Relief Grant, a State Assisted Housing Relief Program grant (through their property) or are housing voucher recipients are still eligible.

"This rental assistance will be a lifeline to so many of our residents who are struggling,” said Council Vice President Albornoz. “Ensuring that people have housing is critical to making sure that they emerge from this pandemic with a stronger future.”

County renters who request assistance from the COVID-19 Rent Relief Program must certify that the household has income under a certain amount; has lost income due to COVID-19; is behind in payment of at least $1,000 in rent; and that they have been a resident of Montgomery County since August 2020. Households may have formal or informal lease arrangements and can reapply for funds even if they already received assistance in earlier versions of the program.

“In the midst of a pandemic, the federal government has repeatedly stepped up to keep roofs over the heads of Marylanders, particularly in our most vulnerable and low-income communities,” said Senator Ben Cardin. “I’m pleased to see Montgomery County getting these urgent relief funds out to renters as we all work to keep residents safe and healthy. Montgomery County residents will be able to continue to rely on this lifeline as an additional round of Emergency Rental Assistance funding is coming soon from the American Rescue Plan.”

“Thousands of Marylanders are still struggling to make ends meet due to the economic burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. This essential funding will help ensure families can keep a roof over their heads as we continue working to combat the virus and build back better. I was proud to help secure these vital funds in Congress, and I appreciate the efforts of County Executive Elrich, and Council President Hucker, Vice President Albornoz and their Council colleagues for their leadership and work to address these issues in Montgomery County. I will continue pushing in Congress for the resources our state needs to recover from this pandemic and provide long-term housing security to all Marylanders,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen.

“Nearly 40 million Americans can’t afford to pay their rent and are fearing eviction from their homes,” said Congressman Jamie Raskin. “Thousands of people in Montgomery County are living this grim reality. Over the last several months, Congress has dedicated billions of dollars to rent, mortgage, and utility assistance to ensure that American families will have a safe place to shelter during the pandemic. Let’s keep all of our constituents close to our hearts as we work together to address the chronic housing crisis, which has been compounded and exacerbated by the pandemic.”

“COVID-19 has left many renters in Montgomery County unable to make ends meet. I was proud to help lead the effort in Congress to secure these funds for our local governments to help folks stay in their homes,” said Congressman David Trone. “I will continue to work with the Biden Administration to ensure we prioritize supporting our county’s most vulnerable as we begin to build back from COVID.”

“New economic support and resources are here to halt evictions, prevent homelessness and keep Maryland families in their homes,” said Congressman Paul Sarbanes. “I will continue working closely with our federal, state and local partners to help Marylanders access safe and affordable housing during this incredibly challenging time.”

Officials also discussed assistance available to renters who are behind on rent. Support organizations and legal aid are available to help tenants access protections against eviction actions, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Order and Governor’s Order against eviction which require that tenants attend Court and present evidence that they qualify for protection.

"Prior to the pandemic, half of all renters were considered 'housing burdened' or paying more than a third of their income in rent,” said Amanda Harris, chief of Services to End and Prevent Homelessness, Montgomery County DHHS. “For low-income renters, threats to their housing stability have been exacerbated by COVID-19. Fortunately, the significant investment from federal, state, and local government has protected thousands of households from eviction. Most notably, this year we have seen a 52 percent reduction in family homelessness as a direct result of County's commitment to equity and prioritizing assistance to those most in need."

"I want renters in Montgomery County to know that you are not alone. You have support to understand your options and protections," said Aseem K. Nigam, director of Montgomery County's Department of Housing and Community Affairs. "You need to take action to apply for rental assistance and to prepare to avoid eviction. To access available supports, call 311 or visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov/renters."

Tenants must show up and present evidence in court that they qualify for eviction moratorium protection. Support Organizations and Legal Aid lawyers are available ahead of time and at the courthouse. Maryland Courts reopened in April to hear thousands of eviction cases and renters need to act before they are called to court and need to attend Court. Information on legal aid and support organizations is available at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/renters. Renters facing an immediate loss of housing should also call 311 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to be connected with DHHS Housing Stabilization Services.

“There are advocates present in court all day, every day, who are working hard to make sure that tenants can benefit from the local and federal tenant protections that are currently in place,” said Frank Vitale, senior staff attorney at Maryland Legal Aid. “Tenants need to attend their court date and be prepared to work with attorneys and other advocates to protect their right to safe and secure housing.”

Rental relief engagement efforts are being approached and utilized through an equity lens. DHHS has developed a Homeless Prevention Index to evaluate all neighborhoods in relation to COVID-19 impact, housing stress and social determinants. Applications will be prioritized based on areas of highest COVID-19 impact, with households in the initial “high impact” neighborhoods (map available at bit.ly/mc-hpi-map) prioritized for processing. This will enable the program to ensure that an equity lens is utilized, recognizing that communities of color have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, disproportionately experience homelessness and are more likely to get evicted. 

“Tenants behind on rent have support available to help applying for rental assistance, working with their landlord and to understand the court process if called to court,” said Ana Martinez, CASA lead organizer. “Tenants should not wait and should take advantage of the help available.”

For the latest COVID-19 updates, visit the County’s COVID-19 website, as well as the County’s data dashboard, or follow Montgomery County on Facebook @MontgomeryCountyInfo and Twitter @MontgomeryCoMD. 

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Release ID: 21-248
Media Contact: Scott Peterson 202-277-9412