Frederick County has expanded its Emergency Rental Assistance program to help those who are struggling to pay their rent due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of Treasury provided under Section 501 of Division N of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2-2021.
Last summer, the county launched its rental assistance program with funding from the CARES Act. Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs administered the program, providing $2.1 million of assistance to 551 area households. The Religious Coalition will continue to administer the current round of Emergency Rental Assistance.
The new round of Emergency Rental Assistance will provide county residents with much needed financial help as employers and businesses continue to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. National data collected in the last two weeks of March revealed that an estimated 10.7 million adults living in rental housing across the nation were not caught up on rent.
Because the need remains great, Frederick County launched and expanded the second round of rental assistance funding this March. This expanded program also offers help with utility and energy payments that are in arrears. In some cases, the program can also help with internet payments, especially since that is critical to those who are working or learning from home during the pandemic.
In the two months since the second round began, the Emergency Rental Assistance program has issued another $2 million to help 438 approved applicants from Frederick County households, but those numbers are sure to increase. Nick Brown, the Religious Coalition’s executive director, reported that as of April 30, the organization was in the process of reviewing an additional $500,000 in pending applications.
“This program has been a huge relief for renters who weren’t sure how they would pay the next month’s rent or who were in arrears on past months’ rent,” Brown said. The average approved applicants’ arrears in March and April were around $5,600. “We’ve also gotten appreciative feedback from rental companies and landlords who we’ve worked with over the years and who face their own COVID-related rent stresses.”
The Rental Assistance program is open to renters in Frederick County whose household income is at or below 80 percent of the area median income and who have lost income or experienced a financial hardship due to, or indirectly related to, COVID-19. Brown cautioned that not everyone who applies will be eligible for assistance since funding is limited, but he encourages those who are interested to visit the Religious Coalition’s website or email the organization for more information.
Renters interested in applying for the assistance are encouraged to provide documentation, such as:
Copy of current lease or rental agreement signed by landlord.
- Proof of all income in the house. 2020 W-2 or tax returns are preferred, but unemployment benefits, bank statements showing direct deposits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) statements are also accepted. Pay stubs, including pre-COVID pay stubs, to demonstrate reduction in hours/pay may be accepted.
- Proof of COVID-related hardship, including proof of unemployment claim or award letter, or letter from employer documenting furlough, details of reduction in hours, etc.
- Proof of reduction in childcare from a day care provider or children’s school due to COVID.
- Proof of positive illness or quarantine/isolation order due to COVID, such as hospital discharge papers or doctor’s confirmation.
- Letter of delinquency or rental ledger that details the month and amounts behind on rent.
- Proof of delinquency of utility and home energy costs (electricity, gas, internet, water and sewer, trash removal, etc.)
Brown said that in some cases, written attestation may be accepted in lieu of documentation.
“We tried to keep the complete application process as nimble as possible,” he said, noting that those without internet access who are unable to complete the application on the Coalition’s website can complete a paper application at the Religious Coalition’s offices at 27 Degrange St. in Frederick. They can also call 800-220-9528 to speak with an application navigator who will help them complete the paperwork.
“The economic hardship from the pandemic has taken its toll on many people through no fault of their own,” Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner said. “Expanding our rental assistance program should allow more residents to stay in their homes. I appreciate our strong partnership with the Religious Coalition to bring this much-needed assistance to the people who most need it.”