Md. Officials: Extra Rent Relief Funding May Be Available

    Thousands of Marylanders could lose their homes when a federal moratorium on evictions ends later this month – but state officials might be able to provide more money for rent relief.

    The state has designated roughly $30 million in rental relief, including $20 million toward eviction prevention, but officials are currently exploring whether federal funding is available to help Marylanders avoid evictions, Deputy Secretary of Budget and Management Mark Nicole told lawmakers during a Wednesday evening House Appropriations Committee briefing.

    “We are following with [the Maryland Emergency Management Agency] at the state level and FEMA at the federal level to see if eviction assistance qualifies as an eligible expense under disaster relief,” Nicole told lawmakers. “That $30 million all of a sudden could become $120 [million].”

    Lawmakers and advocates have raised red flags as the federal moratorium on evictions is set to expire on July 25. More than 150,000 renters in Maryland have lost their income during the pandemic and could lose their homes when the moratorium expires, Lydia Walther-Rodriguez, the regional director for CASA Baltimore, said at a news conference in Baltimore last week.

    Del. Shaneka Henson (D-Anne Arundel) worried that any potential relief funding might be too late to help Marylanders at risk of eviction this month. It wasn’t immediately clear when the extra rental funding would become available.

    “The two timelines are not necessarily intersecting in a way that’s going to be effective with all of Maryland’s renters,” Henson said.

    Maryland is facing massive budgetary shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns. Secretary of Budget and Management David R. Brinkley said six years’ worth of revenues could be wiped out by 2022.

    “That is staggering,” Brinkley said. “Absolutely staggering.”

    The state’s Board of Public Works recently cut $413 million from the budget amid plunging revenues. David C. Romans, a fiscal policy and analysis coordinator with the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, warned lawmakers that any potential federal aid likely won’t offset the billions in expected losses over the next few years.

    “We still have a very large hole to fill,” Romans said.

    [email protected]

    Bennett Leckrone
    Leckrone is a December 2019 graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He has interned at The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Columbus Dispatch, PennLive.com, The Dayton Daily News and The Troy Daily News. Leckrone is a Report for America corps member.