TOWSON, MD—Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski this week announced that Baltimore County will receive an additional $17 million dollars in rental assistance funding from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, through its allocation of federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds.
The new funds will bring the County’s overall investment in housing stability initiatives since the beginning of the pandemic to over $115 million, allowing the County and its partners to serve at least 1,500 additional households. Already, the County has helped 5,500 families avoid eviction.
“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,” Olszewski said. “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 Baltimore County’s innovative STEP program, which utilizes 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. The STEP program is unique because it bundles large numbers of past-due accounts for preventing evictions, working with landlords and property managers of specific large (multifamily) apartment complexes, which often involve households most at risk of eviction.
“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,” said Franklyn Baker, President and CEO of the United Way of Central Maryland. “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.”
The remaining $6 million will be distributed through the County’s Eviction Prevention Program (EPP). This program works directly with residents through local nonprofit organizations in order to help residents avoid eviction. The following organizations have been partners in this tenant-based program:
- Associated Catholic Charites
- Community Assistance Network
- House of Ruth
- Jewish Community Services
- St. Francis Episcopal Housing
- Latino Economic Development Center
- St. Vincent de Paul
The County has re-opened its Eviction Prevention portal to new applications for the next two weeks, through June 30, 2022, and will expand eligibility requirements in order to help more families. This includes the provision of up to three months of forward rental payments for tenants still struggling to recover from COVID-related loss of income. 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.
To date, the County has invested almost $650,000 in free access to legal counsel for tenants. Residents who require housing-related legal services may contact Maryland Legal Aid, Pro Bono Resource Center, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, or the District Court Self-Help Resource Centers. The Self Help Centers provide free limited legal services for individuals who are not represented by an attorney in civil cases. The Centers can be reached on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. by calling 410-260-1392, or through an online chat.
“As our economic recovery from the pandemic continues, we need to keep working to support those hardest hit. That means ensuring folks can stay in their homes and not be forced onto the streets,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen. “With this significant investment of federal funding, Baltimore County and its local partners will be able to continue providing rental assistance to households that have fallen on hard times. I will keep working in the Senate to boost access to affordable housing throughout Maryland as we navigate our economic recovery.”
In addition to providing financial support to residents, the County has partnered with the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition’s Fair Housing Action Center to provide financial coaching and counseling, including assistance negotiating with landlords; referral to supportive services, including legal assistance; and renters’ tax credit applications and assistance. Those currently homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless are advised to call 410-887-8463 for assistance.