March 24, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Matt Hill, 443-904-4263
Despite repeated calls from seven county executives and over 50 organizations, the Governor and General Assembly have so far refused to allocate any funds in the FY 2024 budget for emergency rental assistance to prevent evictions. With the budget negotiation process entering the final stages, the window for the Governor and General Assembly to act is rapidly closing. While other states are prioritizing funding in their budgets to maintain their emergency rental assistance programs, Maryland is leaving families facing eviction behind. Oregon recently allocated $200 million for emergency rental assistance to replace waning federal ERAP funds, and, as a result, they have continued to keep evictions at a record low. Michigan, Washington State, California, and Washington, D.C. have also allocated additional state funds for maintaining emergency rental assistance for eviction prevention.
Over 100,000 Maryland families have avoided eviction through emergency rental assistance in the past two years. Another 108,000 families are at risk of eviction now. The promise to “leave no one behind” must be made to apply to essential workers who do not have enough left over each month to pay off pandemic rent debt. Of these households at risk of eviction, 80% are people of color. Most are women-headed households. Additionally, recent census data shows that of those families “very likely” to be evicted in the next two months, over 90% are families with children. “When we talk about racial and gender equity,” says Public Justice Center Executive Director Jeniece Jones, “emergency rental assistance to prevent eviction is vital. It remains true that because of centuries of systemic racism in our society and economy that Black men are locked up, while Black women are locked out. Maryland has the opportunity to lead and prevent thousands of families from being locked out with an allocation for emergency rental assistance.”
“I’ve had multiple panic attacks worrying about how an eviction would affect my four-year-old son,” says Awura Cummings, who resides in Baltimore City. “I’ve borrowed from everyone I know. I’m trying to pick up as much work as I can, but I’m still having trouble getting out of the financial hole. People just need a little help to get back on their feet. I’ve been waiting for months to see if my emergency rental assistance application is actually paid to the landlord. This is no way to live.”
Working families’ savings and credit have been tapped out over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rent inflation has skyrocketed, and as is always the case, people still miss work hours and lose pay due to medical illness, family crisis, or job loss. This leaves no buffer to keep families from homelessness when small financial setbacks inevitably happen. According to Public Justice Center attorney Matthew Hill, “We see hundreds of families in eviction court who have lost a job, been in a car accident, or had a medical setback. Emergency financial setbacks may be inevitable, but catastrophic eviction and homelessness does not have to be. Maryland learned how to address financial emergencies during the pandemic – developing a robust, sustainable, effective, statewide emergency rental assistance program that helped over 100,000 families avoid eviction. Maryland can continue this successful program, but the window is rapidly closing on the state’s budget to do so.”