Frederick County Rental Assistance Program Facing Shortfall

County Executive is requesting additional funding from the state.

Frederick, Md. (KM) – The Emergency Rental Assistance Program in Frederick County is facing a financial shortfall.. That ‘s according to Monica Bearden, the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the Division of Citizens Services. She briefed the County Council on the program on Tuesday.

“With a projected need of over $9-million, and our current confirmed funding–that’s funding in hand of a little over $4-million–that leaves us with a potential shortfall $5.3, almost $5.4-million dollars,” she said.

Bearden says the County Executive has asked the state for $3-million in additional funding, and has received a verbal commitment.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program began in July, 2020,  with a look back to March 2020,  to help individuals and families facing eviction due to direct or indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the loss of a job. It’s consists of the County, the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, Maryland Legal Aid and Maryland Court Help. As of April 30th, 2022,  $11.8-million has been  spent on the program, according to background material prepared for Tuesday’s Council meeting.

The funding for the program comes from direct federal appropriations and state pass through funds from the federal level.

Bearden says the need is still there. “The number of households behind in rent are estimated to be over 3100. The estimated debt per household is estimated to be at $3,000. And the estimated total rent debt is $9.5-million,” she said.

The background materials say   the program has some successes such as strong partnerships with local non-profits, adherence to federal requirements, funding expended at one of the highest rates in Maryland, international outreach to low income and non-English speaking households,  and landlords.

But it has faced challenges, such as preventing fraud, the sheer volume of funding, ensuring that eligible households have applied, uncertainty about future funding, and the evolving rental market.

During the meeting, Councilman Phil Dacey questioned the need for the County to be involved in this program. “From the national information that I’ve seen, with all of the various government programs that we have, households I guess,  have more money than ever. The savings rate is  higher than ever,” he said.

Bearden responded:  “Your quote about people may have more money: that may be true for some of our population, but it’s not true for all of our population,” she said. “And there is a lot of inequity in the lower income earning community, and it’s very difficult for them to get back on their feet.”

But she said Emergency Rental Assistance Program will wind down in the future, and the Religious Coalition is preparing for that. “They will continue to work with Maryland Legal Aid. They will continue to use private donations and grant funding. And they are really encouraging financial literacy as a tool to help folks who either found themselves in financial hot water, or need to right their ship right now,” says Bearden.

By Kevin McManus