ROCKVILLE, MD — With the federal moratorium on evictions set to expire Saturday, the Montgomery County Council is set to vote on a $20 million proposal for rental assistance, a measure intended to stave off what County Executive Marc Elrich has referred to as "a tsunami of potential evictions."
However, that vote won't come until next week, after the eviction moratorium expires July 25.
Targets of the $20 million would include the county's COVID Rent Relief program, which ran out of its initial $3.5 million funding in early June. (Residents can still apply to the program for a spot on the wait-list.)
In a statement, Elrich acknowledged that even with an injection of $20 million from the federal CARES act, the county won't have enough money to help all tenants impacted when courts begin hearing new eviction cases.
"I believe it is imperative that we support tenants using all our resources," Elrich said. "I recognize that $20 million is not the full amount we will need, but it represents a significant initial allotment to meet immediate challenges."
Those challenges are compounding the pressure on tenants and landlords.
In an email to Patch, Ilana Branda, deputy chief of the county's Services to End and Prevent Homelessness, cited a survey of multi-family developers which found that 10 percent of the county's tenants — 13,000 people — are delinquent on their rent payments.
Branda also noted that while courts are not scheduled to hear new eviction cases until after August 31, "If the court awarded an eviction prior to the moratorium in March, those evictions can be carried out beginning July 25th."
While the federal moratorium is set to expire by Saturday, in Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan's executive order barring evictions is still in effect. However, tenants must be able to show that their inability to pay rent is connected to coronavirus. (The state web page offering guidance for tenants notes examples, including, "losing employment, needing to care for a school-aged child, or being diagnosed with COVID-19.")
On the federal level, Democrats in Congress are pushing for an extension of the eviction moratorium to be included in an upcoming coronavirus relief bill. To date, Republicans have yet to confirm whether such a measure will be part of their proposed coronavirus relief package.
Even if Republicans in Congress do throw their support behind an extension on the moratorium, it won't happen before the current one lapses this weekend.
During a news conference Wednesday, Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen joined Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to urge action before the country finds itself in a crisis of evictions.
Citing research from the Aspen Institute, Van Hollen said that more than 330,000 of his constituents are at risk for eviction through the end of the year.
"That's a staggering number, and that's just Maryland," Van Hollen said. "And if you look around the county, this a human catastrophe in the making."