For Immediate Release: March 24, 2023
Media Contact: Matt Hill, & Gabriela Hernandez, CASA [email protected]
Renters & Service Providers Outraged as Maryland Leadership Effectively Ends Emergency Rental Assistance By Failing to Fund in State Budget
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Yesterday, the Maryland Senate voted to approve the state’s budget, which the House of Delegates approved last week. The budget leaves emergency rental assistance to prevent evictions completely unfunded. Emergency rental assistance (ERA) is a critical eviction prevention tool that kept 100,000 of Maryland’s renting households from being evicted over the course of the pandemic. There are more than 108,000 households behind on rent, and many are at risk of imminent eviction due to emergency financial hardship, which could be prevented if a safety net is provided in the form of emergency rental assistance. According to recent census data, over 90% of households “very likely” to be evicted in the next two months are families with children.
With federal funds running out and evictions returning to pre-pandemic rates, Maryland’s elected leaders have ignored the calls from tenants, advocates, service providers, and seven county executives who called for $175M in the FY 2024 budget to continue funding emergency rental assistance.
While $175M may not be feasible given lower revenue projections, Maryland would save more than two dollars for each dollar invested in emergency rental assistance, or a 2:1 return on investment. A Maryland ERA program would more than pay for itself in cost savings to the social service system. As an example, a $50M investment in ERA would enable counties to provide assistance to 10,067 households, which is sufficient to address all of the rental demand of likely applicant households in the $35k and below income bracket. Since 12% of evictions lead to homelessness, this means 1,208 households would avoid homelessness. The average Maryland household size is 2.6 individuals, so 3,141 individuals would avoid homelessness. And, the average social cost of each homeless individual is $35,000. So, a $50M investment would yield a total cost savings of $109M in the public services that would be needed to assist those 3,141 homeless individuals.
Some in the legislature and Moore Administration have suggested that a proposed new voucher program, that could start in FY 2025, if passed, is enough to meet the needs of Maryland’s renters at risk of eviction. Advocates have pointed out that this legislation is targeted to families who have long-term structural income deficits and, unlike emergency rental assistance, does not assist families – regardless of immigration status – who have suffered temporary financial hardships like the loss of a job, a car accident or an unexpected expense like a medical bill or funeral.
Renters United Maryland and countless other leaders are calling on the General Assembly leadership and Governor Moore to add ERA funding to the budget through the budget conference committee process or a supplemental budget from the Governor as soon as possible.
The Moore-Miller Transition Team’s report, in its short-term housing recommendations, called for the Administration to “robustly fund emergency rental assistance and long-term rental assistance programs,” yet the FY 2024 budget contains no such funding.
“Oregon just allocated $200 million to emergency rental assistance for eviction prevention and has seen evictions remain at record lows,” says Public Justice Center attorney Matthew Hill, “Michigan, Washington State, and Washington D.C. have also allocated these funds. A financial setback does not have to become a catastrophic eviction for the families I see in eviction court every week. But it’s going to require decisive leadership from the Governor and General Assembly to change course at this point and ensure that families with children facing eviction are not left behind.”
“Funding for rental assistance is about reducing systemic racial inequity and keeping Black and Latino families, disproportionately affected by housing insecurity, from being displaced. The historical and ongoing discrimination in housing, exacerbated by the pandemic, has left immigrant communities with a longer and more difficult recovery time. We still need rental assistance, now more than ever,” said Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA.
“We are still post-COVID, and I come across tenants daily who are struggling to catch up on their rent due to COVID. Funding rental assistance will keep families with children in their homes. Please keep in mind that due to COVID, families lost their jobs, hours were cut, some single moms were unable to work due to schools and daycare centers being closed, and there was a lack of public transportation. There will be a wave of mass evictions happening, which can be prevented if rental assistance is funded.” said Detrese Dowridge, Lead Tenant Organizer of Baltimore Renters United.
Administrators of emergency rental assistance programs throughout the state report that, without ongoing funding to support a statewide emergency rental assistance program, their programs will be forced to shut down. The effective and efficient infrastructure created to quickly distribute critical rental assistance funds to prevent evictions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic will be dismantled, wasting valuable resources and leaving the state in a vulnerable and precarious position for the next big crisis.
There is still time for Governor Moore and the Maryland General Assembly to change course, heed the recommendations of the Moore-Miller transition team and figure out a way to “robustly fund emergency rental assistance,” and keep thousands of Marylanders and Maryland’s children housed.