The coronavirus pandemic’s economic effects have led to a surge of evictions and has brought about what some call a new era of rental protections.

Though the state of emergency is over, many Baltimore County renters have and are being adversely affected as a result of the pandemic, prompting county and state leaders to secure funding to relieve some of the financial burden.

Baltimore County will receive $17 million in rental assistance funding from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development through its allocation of federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds, announced County Executive Johnny Olszewski on June 16.

The investment enables the county and its partners to provide assistance to at least 1,500 households, says a Baltimore County government release. Since the onset of the pandemic, the county has aided about 7,000 families in rental assistance, Olszewski said.

“We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to help keep families in their homes, and we have worked diligently since the beginning of the pandemic to do just that,” said Olszewski, who held a press conference at the Baltimore County Historic Courthouse in Towson on June 16.

“This new funding will allow us to continue these critical efforts – every family that we can help avoid eviction is one that doesn’t end up without a roof over their heads.”

Of the $17 million in new funding, $11 million will be allocated to the United Way of Central Maryland to continue the county’s Strategic Targeted Eviction Prevention (STEP) program, which uses “a data-driven approach and provides past-due rent for most at-risk vulnerable households who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic” while the remaining $6 million will be distributed through the county’s Eviction Prevention Program (EPP), which works directly with residents through local nonprofits to help them avoid eviction.

In the 14-minute press conference, Olszewski joined several county and state partners, including Baltimore County Department of Housing and Community Development Director Terry Hickey and Scott Gottbreht, vice president of housing with the United Way of Central Maryland.

“Housing has always been among the top needs in our region, and has been a focus area of the United Way of Central Maryland for years,” Gottbreht said.

“It will take all of us working together, working united to help our neighbors deal with the fallout from the pandemic and to help them recover and rebuild their lives. Thank you so much for your ongoing partnership.”

The County Executive’s office has also announced the following organizations as EPP partners: Associated Catholic Charites; Community Assistance Network; House of Ruth; Jewish Community Services; St. Francis Episcopal Housing; Latino Economic Development Center; and St. Vincent de Paul.

The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition’s Fair Housing Action Center is another county partner in lending supportive services for residents in need of assistance.

“Housing has always been among the top needs in our region—and has been a focus area of United Way’s for nearly 100 years. STEP is a crucial tool in preventing evictions and homelessness due to its efficiency and precision in targeting assistance to the households that need it most,” United Way of Central Maryland president and CEO Franklyn Baker said according to a statement released by the Baltimore County government.

“In addition to STEP, we’ve invested significant resources in Baltimore County through a wide range of grants and neighborhood support, including $600,000 in grants made this year to dozens of organizations to amplify the work of local organizations.”

Baltimore County has re-opened its eviction prevention portal to new applications through June 30 and will be expanding eligibility requirements, which includes “the provision of up to three months of forward rental payments for tenants still struggling to recover from COVID-related loss of income,” says a county release.

Additional information about eligibility and the application portal can be accessed on the County EPP website – https://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/departments/housing/eviction-prevention-program. Those currently homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless are advised to call 410-887-8463 for assistance.

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