BALTIMORE — Maryland received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid to avoid mass evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the relief money is getting out of the door slower than expected.
“This is a completely preventable crisis,” said Matt Hill, who is an attorney with the Public Justice Center.
To date, the state has used 15 percent of the $400 million, according to a state dashboard.
Despite getting more than 27,000 applications, Maryland has given out $60 million to less than 10,000 households.
“These programs need to move quicker. They need to get the money out of the door yesterday,” said Hill.
Hill said jurisdictions in Maryland weren’t prepared to distribute the unprecedented amount of funds.
“You’re talking about having to build an entirely new social safety net in the middle of a public health crisis and comply with various government shifting regulations. It’s a monumental task, which just takes a little bit of time.”
Leaders across the state are facing even more pressure to use the money now that the U.S Supreme Court decided to end the CDC’s temporary eviction ban.
The state and its jurisdictions could be at risk of giving the remaining money back if most of its not used by the end of September.
It’s likely the federal government will extend the deadline to use the funds, but time is ticking.
Hill said 129,000 Marylanders are currently behind on their rent and will soon face eviction.
He said it could put more people at risk of getting COVID-19.
“Many of them will have to go into congregate housing either a shelter or double up with friends and family. Those kinds of close quarters have been shown to increase COVID transmission," he said.
If you get an eviction notice, it’s important that you seek legal help and show up to court, Hill said.
Hill also said renters need to fill out an application for assistance as soon as possible. Landlords can also request help through Maryland’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
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