Housing in Maryland has become one of the latest industries that the coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said $5 million has been provided for emergency one-time payments, $3.5 million in rental assistance and $218,000 to help tenants facing eviction.
The negative: about 20,000 households are in default of lease payments. Elrich said the number could’ve been higher if not for the additional $600 per week provided for federal unemployment assistance. The $600 payments are scheduled to end July 25.
In addition, a moratorium on evictions is set to expire on the same date through the federal CARES Act, the economic stimulus package approved by Congress to help states with budgetary problems due to the pandemic.
“When that ends … unless all the jobs come back miraculously, we’ve got a real problem on our hands,” Elrich said Monday during a virtual briefing before the House of Delegates Environment and Transportation Committee. “We’re facing a tsunami of potential evictions.”
The committee held a nearly five-hour discussion in which county officials and housing advocates sought help to ensure those who rent don’t face homelessness due to scheduled eviction hearings in court.
Maryland courts are reopening in phases.
Escrow and tenant holding actions that occurred prior to the courts closing could take place starting July 20. Five days later, on the same day the eviction moratorium will lift, the courts plan to process warrants for those who failed to pay rent.
According to Maryland District Court statement, all District Courts “will begin to hear failure to pay rent cases as well as all other landlord/tenant case types” starting Aug. 31.
Meanwhile, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday, June 26 the state will provide $30 million in eviction prevention assistance. About $20 million will go to all 23 counties and Baltimore City and the other $10 million for a housing relief program.
If the state of emergency executive order remains in effect, then unemployed residents affected by the coronavirus and face eviction may be protected. However, they may need to go to court and prove it.
“This highlights that there is significant uncertainty, concern among tenants who just don’t what’s going to happen,” said Karen Wabeke, senior attorney for the Homeless Persons Representation Project Inc. of Baltimore. “The suggestion that folks should feel comfortable at this point is really, really missing the mark.”