Baltimore City Senators Hold Rental Assistance Town Hall

Yesterday, the Baltimore City Senate Delegation held a roundtable discussion on the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).

Maryland Senators Corey McCray (Chair, D-45) and Mary Washington (D-43) represented the delegation. Melody Simmons, a journalist with the Baltimore Business Journal, moderated the event, which also included:

  • Faith Leach, Deputy Mayor, Baltimore City
  • Angela Whitaker, Director, Baltimore City Community Action Partnership
  • Danielle Meister, Senior Policy Officer, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development
  • Matt Hill, Attorney, Public Justice Center

Senator Washington provided context for the discussion, explaining:

“Our residents are really suffering- they’re suffering from this crisis… The thought and the fear of having nowhere to go… is really terrifying.”

She noted that, as of August 15th, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development received $401 million in federal ERAP funds, and it can anticipate receiving an additional $352 million. The senator added that, around the state, 27,000 applications were received for rental assistance and only 9,800 have been processed. Based on the information she provided, Senator Washington called for additional data reporting around evictions.

Deputy Mayor Leach and Director Whitaker discussed Baltimore City’s efforts to ensure renters and landlords are able to apply for and receive ERAP funds. Director Whitaker stated that either landlords or tenants can begin the ERAP application process. The Deputy Mayor noted City staff have been working directly with landlords to assist in the application process.

A major consideration for the City has been the distinct living arrangements of potential ERAP recipients, which can vary from living with relatives to having handshake agreements with landlords. Deputy Mayor Leach praised the United States Department of Treasury for its flexibility in providing funds to those with complex living arrangements. As a result, Baltimore City has disbursed approximately $25 million to renters in need of assistance, amounting to nearly 4,200 at-risk households. Moreover, Deputy Mayor Leach noted that the City has expended 85% of its first installment of ERAP funds.

Ms. Meister provided additional details regarding the application flexibility afforded by ERAP. She stated that tenant applicants can self-attest to their income, rental properties do not have to be registered, and formal lease agreements are not required. Ms. Meister urged landlords to not evict tenants, and for tenants to apply for ERAP as soon as possible.

Mr. Hill discussed the difficulties he has encountered serving clients who have either been evicted or are facing eviction. He said many of his clients who have been evicted are without alternative housing arrangements, which may have been possible pre-pandemic. Mr. Hill commended the state and city for having incorporated much needed wrap-around legal and social services in their ERAP outreach and application processes. He closed by expressing concern with landlords refusing ERAP funds, the need to extend rental assistance from 12 months to 18 months, and the need for additional legal assistance funding.

Watch the full discussion: