In early July, Frederick leaders announced a roughly $3 million COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help county and city residents meet their rent payments and avoid eviction. But, the program has received fewer applications than anticipated, totaling roughly $500,000 in requests.

The county and city of Frederick partnered with the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs when it launched the program July 13. It was set to expire on July 17 but has been extended until further notice.

Nick Brown, executive director of the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, said County Executive Jan Gardner, Frederick City Mayor Michael O’Connor and he had expected the program would have reached full capacity almost immediately. But applications so far have totaled only 280 to 300 cases of the roughly 550 to 600 that the program can support.

“Myself and county and city officials expected a full-on overrun,” Brown said, adding that a similar program in Baltimore hit around 1,500 applicants within the first five days that its portal was open. “One thing we were wondering [was] if it was in fact publicity… Did we not get the word out enough?”

Brown said his group will reach out to the Frederick County Association of Realtors so its members can spread the word about the program to landlords and their tenants.

He also added that the Religious Coalition has conducted extensive outreach about the program through press releases and information sheets with local partners as well as conversations with groups such as RISE, an immigrant rights coalition in western Maryland, to ensure access to information for Spanish speakers.

Brown wondered whether the lower number of applicants may signal that there isn’t as much need for rental assistance in Frederick.

“The best-case scenario is that there’s just not the need,” Brown said. “It could just very well be that the need isn’t present locally, which again, would be a great scenario for Frederick.”

Some groups still have concerns about applying

Cathryn Paul, a research and policy analyst at Maryland-based immigrant advocacy organization CASA, said that she heard of the Frederick-based program but added that the outreach about this and other programs has likely not been strong enough to those hit the hardest by the pandemic.

Several news articles and research reports have said that communities of color, families on welfare and undocumented groups are among those disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in cities nationwide, with many of them lacking sufficient state and federal resources to help them survive.

“This isn’t just a Frederick problem,” Paul said in an email. “This is an all-over Maryland problem. Outreach to immigrants and other Black and brown vulnerable groups [has] to be prioritized. The county should be thinking, ‘Who out of everyone has gotten nothing? Who is suffering the most?’”

Undocumented immigrants can apply to the Frederick program and may be eligible for the local funding because “there’s nothing that says if you’re undocumented you can’t receive it,” Brown said.

Yet Paul said undocumented communities still have concerns about applying to government-related relief programs that require basic personal information. Especially given recent and historic cooperation between local government and federal immigration officials nationwide, “you can’t blame immigrants for not trusting the government in a time like this,” she said.

Nationwide, undocumented communities’ concerns about applying to programs that require their personal information are also contextualized by recent articles that disclosed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement have access to databases containing information, such as home addresses, for certain immigrant populations.

While undocumented immigrants may apply to the Frederick program, Brown also said that it remains “even-keel[ed],” meaning there is no preference or allocation of specific funds to undocumented applicants or other groups who may be facing greater financial strain than others. Mayor Michael O’Connor also confirmed that the program operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

Immigrants particularly hurt by unemployment

As the unemployment rates in Maryland jumped from 3.5 percent in March to 9.8 by April, according to data from Maryland’s Department of Labor, the effects of unemployment have not been evenly felt, leaving some populations, including immigrant communities, more vulnerable to eviction, job loss and COVID-19 than others.

“I haven’t worked in three months,” said CASA member Zoila Leyva Monteflores in a video posted to CASA’s Twitter account. “I haven’t had any income, and honestly the rent has me worried, because I don’t have [anywhere] to go.”

Nationwide, immigrants have faced higher unemployment rates during the pandemic compared to their U.S.-born counterparts, according to Pew Research data which shows that the rate of unemployment for foreign-born workers in May was nearly 16 percent compared to just over 12 percent for U.S.-born workers. Additionally, immigrants who are not U.S. citizens nor U.S. nationals do not qualify for federal stimulus checks under the CARES Act, which immigration advocates have protested.

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which passed the House on June 23, would provide temporary financial and health protections to undocumented workers if made into law. The bill isn’t expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, with President Donald Trump calling it “dead on arrival.”

A call for improved state leadership

O’Connor, who said that the emergency renters’ assistance program is one of several city relief efforts intended to assist residents, nonprofits and small businesses hit hard by the pandemic, also said he hopes state officials are responding to the same data everyone else has about COVID-19.

“In a perfect world, the state and the counties and the city would all be able to move in uniform ways,” O’Connor said. “Our responsibility at the local level is to respond to the needs on the ground, in our community, the best way we can with the resources we have available.”

Statewide, organizations such as the Maryland Center on Economic Policy, Our Revolution Maryland and Communities United have joined CASA in a social media “Cancel the Rent” advocacy campaign that has been calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to suspend rent payments while the COVID-19 health crisis persists.

“@GovLarryHogan if you do not #CancelTheRent you will be failing our state. It is time for you to work for the people,” read one tweet from Our Revolution Maryland, an independent organization that advocates for affordable housing and progressive taxation.

On March 5, Gov. Hogan signed an executive order prohibiting certain evictions during the pandemic, but that is set to expire on July 25 when the federal moratorium ends. O’Connor said Frederick’s emergency renters’ program may see an uptick in applications after the moratorium expires, as the Maryland judiciary will resume reviewing eviction cases on July 25.

According to CASA’s Twitter account, CASA organizers will be marching to Government House, Gov. Hogan’s official residence, on Friday to protest the potential evictions, which organizers and residents have said will have implications for all Marylanders because those forced to leave their apartments would likely be unable to self-quarantine and could increase the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 even further across the state.

“If Governor Hogan doesn’t take action on housing relief immediately, we are [in] deep, deep trouble as a state,” Paul said, citing data from The Aspen Institute estimating that nearly 330,000 Maryland residents could face eviction by the end of the fourth tax quarter. “No one should be evicted right now. Period.”

Follow Allen Etzler on Twitter: @AllenWEtzler

(17) comments

Crab0721

What about people who have mortgage payments they don't get any assistance. Mortgage companies are not willing to work with people and they are going to be facing foreclosure. If you help people out with rent then you can surely help people out with mortgage payments. I know that some mortgage payments are lower than rent payments

NewMarketParent

That might be more difficult to do as the Mortgage companies operate at the national/state level. It would be a great time for some leadership from the state/federal government. Good luck with that.

TomWheatley

Is the author formerly from Frederick? Sounds more like National news in the article about halfway down. Didn't realize our little town was making national news.

https://dc.medill.northwestern.edu/blog/author/amu1683/#sthash.sDW09Sxq.dpbs

bosco

Why all the focus on illegal immigrants? They flaunt our immigration laws, sneak into the country, and then demand free stuff from the rest of us. This is like somebody breaking into your home, taking up residence there, and then demanding that you take care of them.

We have laws that allow legal immigration. Why reward those who ignore our law and jump the line?

Remember in November

[ninja]

NewMarketParent

Source please. And please use a reputable one.

Also, your statement is exactly what your ancestors did to the indigenous people of this country, so please take all of the seats.

MD1756

FYI, humans are not indigenous to North, Central or South America.

girlpolitic

?

francesca_easa

Ms. Paul, there are nonprofits who can provide assistance such as the Religious Coalition. There is utility assistance and food assistance programs also. I have seen plenty of churches,, schools, and organizations like Community Action Agency and Asian American Center giving out free food. Why is it the state's or government's responsibility? What is your organization doing to help with housing, food and utilities? What money have you given?

LocalLibrarian

It's a pretty well-known fact that without state and federal programs, charities can absolutely not keep up with the need in their communities (if you're curious, Google "charity and government social programs"). Charitable organizations can only help fill in the gaps, they can not take on the responsibilities of a wide reaching program like social security or food stamps. They also spend a good part of their time helping their clients navigate federal and state programs like unemployment. Charity and government programs together are more effective than one without the other.

Also, what is our government for, if not to ensure that we all have access to "life liberty and the pursuit of happiness?" It IS the state and government's responsibility to ensure that its people are housed, fed, and alive.

And what money have YOU given, Francesca? Have a great day [smile]

NewMarketParent

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][smile]

francesca_easa

Yes, I give donations and volunteer my time for causes of importance to me. The issue is that organizations like La Raza and others get government funding. And then cry some more that they need more money. That is what I call double dipping. They should raise their own funds too.

NewMarketParent

It depends on what you see as the role of government. Governments can't govern the sick and infirm. Additionally, centralizing our money helps us use the scale of our dollars to more efficiently purchase goods in bulk and distribute them.

Charities don't nearly have enough to meet demand.

bosco

Source please?

[lol][ninja]

NewMarketParent

https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=42

Currently, that is 2.1% of GDP. ~$410B.

There are 300M people in the U.S..

That breaks down to $1366/person.

Do you think that would be enough to solve all of the problems here?

Do you think that is enough?

NewMarketParent

Do you think that would go anywhere near paying for all of the gofundme's I see to pay for medical bills I see everyday?

sue1955

I read elsewhere that the rental assistance is to be made directly to the landlord/property management company. In addition; (which I don't think that the article brings out), is that people who are not on a lease to begin with are not going to open up that "can of worms." That goes for people who have let in other family and/or friends to circumvent laws related to number of people allowed in rental property. In addition, proof of income (required by the program) is not going to work with people paid "under the table." Those are the real reasons why such people are not willing to provide their personal information. That and the fact that people could be subject to deportation. Didn't the applicable city officials realize this about the lease aspect? Maybe it is just glossed over for purposes of the article. But if they think that outreach is the issue, they are misguided and naive.

francesca_easa

You are correct that the payments go to the landlord to prevent the clients spending the money on other things.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Already a member?

Login Now
Click Here!

Currently a News-Post subscriber?

Activate your membership at no additional charge.
Click Here!

Need more information?

Learn about the benefits of membership.
Click Here!

Ready to join?

Choose the membership plan that fits your needs.
Click Here!