Local leaders announced roughly $3 million in rental assistance on Tuesday for county and city of Frederick residents having trouble paying rent due to the coronavirus pandemic.

County Executive Jan Gardner, Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor and Nick Brown, executive director of The Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, announced the partnership and that much of the funding would come from money allocated to the county and city through the CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March.

Gardner said the county would contribute about $2.2 million to the Emergency Rental Assistance Fund, most of which would come from CARES Act funding. O’Connor said the city would pitch in about $830,000, with the same funding source.

More than 200 households in the city of Frederick would benefit from the rental assistance fund, O’Connor said Tuesday. Brown the $3 million should serve roughly 500-600 households countywide.

County and city officials are turning to the Religious Coalition because they already offer rental assistance programs. Still, Brown noted those programs usually distribute about $250,000 at a time, not $3 million.

An online portal will open July 13 at 8 a.m. and close July 17 at 7 p.m. Those interested must meet certain income requirements, be able to prove loss of income because of the coronavirus pandemic, provide a copy of their lease and meet other requirements.

“COVID has been kind of very real-time … suddenly, there’s a need and suddenly you have to scramble to figure out how to close that gap,” Brown said. “And this was very quick, once we knew that the funding was there, the next step was, let’s figure out how to get all the wheels on the ground and use this initial $3 million.”

Brown said the money will be distributed directly to landlords.

“We don’t want to cut $3 million in paper checks, so we’ll be pushing out as much as we can digitally and trying to work with landlords as quickly as we can,” he added.

Gardner said outside of the rental assistance program, she and other county executives statewide have written to Gov. Larry Hogan, urging him to allocate some state funding for rental assistance and to prevent evictions of tenants. Hogan’s executive order prohibiting evictions expires July 25.

Those tenants have been put in tough situations through no fault of their own, Gardner said Tuesday.

O’Connor added that even though the roughly $3 million will help many tenants, the economic impact of the coronavirus is something he and others must combat long term.

“We know that even after the pandemic is done, whenever that is, the economic impact our residents are going to feel is going to be for some time,” O’Connor said.

Brown said there could be other emergency funds used for rental assistance, especially for those that don’t qualify for any of the $3 million announced Tuesday.

He added, however, the biggest challenge is adjusting to the day-to-day needs of residents seeking assistance, and overall demand. He anticipates the $3 million will help, but there could be more demand for rental assistance.

He noted Baltimore opened a similar rental assistance portal where 1,600 applications were approved. But 1,500 additional ones were not awarded, he said.

“We’re not as big as Baltimore but everything is unprecedented,” Brown said. “So we’ll get very quick data as of [July 17], to see the applications coming and fairly quickly discern what the local burden is.

“We’ve been asked a lot of times in the nonprofit world ... What do you need, what do you think your needs are going to be?” Brown added about the pandemic’s impact. “We’re week to week, so it’s been just like this: We’ll see it as it develops.”

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

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