Lawmakers criticized Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s rent relief plan at a hearing in Annapolis yesterday, saying the state must spend much more to stop a likely “tsunami” of evictions and foreclosures.
On Friday, Hogan announced $30 million in rent relief for tenants affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Yesterday representatives from the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) faced questions on how exactly that money will be spent.
“This has been going on for months and it’s shocking to me that there’s so little planned out about this program right now,” Delegate Brooke Lierman told DHCD officials at a House Environment and Transportation Committee hearing on the pandemic’s effects on housing.
“It sounds like you don’t know how you’re sending out the money or what the parameters are yet,” said Lierman, a Democrat who represents south and southeast Baltimore. “It seems very vague right now.”
“We need serious money”
Lierman and others, including Delegate Vaughn Stewart of Montgomery County, asked why Hogan had only allocated $30 million for rent relief, when Maryland has more than $1 billion in CARES Act funding from the federal government.
“Ensuring housing stability for everyone is not only a moral imperative, it’s a public health necessity,” Stewart said. He said the Hogan administration “has not adequately planned for what now appears to be an inevitable humanitarian crisis.”
“It’s shocking to me that there’s so little planned out” – Delegate Brooke Lierman.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich echoed that point.
“$30 million doesn’t cut it,” Elrich said. “We’ve got a serious problem on our hands. . . We need something resembling serious money.”
Pickels and Heckles Downplay
J. Hunter Pickels, DHCD’s director of legislative affairs, said his department hadn’t had much time to prepare, but said the problem isn’t as big as advocates say it is.
“Thirty million dollars is substantial,” Pickels said. “I think from the very beginning, the governor has taken a strong stand to protect Maryland renters.”
“Quite frankly, the announcement came out on Friday, and today is Monday morning,” Matthew Heckles, assistant secretary in the division of development finance, told Lierman.
While the CARES Act’s eviction moratorium ends on July 25, Hogan’s own moratorium will extend until three months after the end of the state of emergency.
“[Tenants] should feel comfortable and secure in their homes,” Heckles said.
Rent Assistance in Baltimore
Meanwhile in Baltimore, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young yesterday announced his own initiative to help renters.
The city will spend $15 million, mostly from CARES Act funding, on rent assistance. Young earlier signed into law a City Council bill to prevent rent increases during the pandemic. The same bill prohibits late fees.
“Funding is limited – not every applicant will receive rent support,” city says of new renters program.
Under the terms of the new program, up to 80% of the rent due for April, May and June will be paid by the city for low-income residents who have lost income because of Covid-19,
Citizens can apply for temporary rent support starting tomorrow (July 1) through July 13.
There are a number of eligibility requirements, including limits on household income and proof of having fully paid-up rent as of March 31.
The city also warns that “funding is limited – not every applicant will receive rent support.”
Information on how to apply can be found here.