November 05, 2021

Cardin, Van Hollen Urge State to Use Emergency Rental Assistance Immediately or Risk Losing Funds

Senators request update on State’s progress & plans to avoid losing funds to help Marylanders stay in their homes

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) sent a letter to the Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development Secretary Kenneth Holt urging the State to immediately use the federally-provided emergency rental assistance funds to assist Marylanders struggling to stay in their homes. In their letter, the Senators stress the urgency of this matter, noting that Maryland is in jeopardy of losing its funds if they are not used expeditiously. The Senators also point to Maryland’s stark lack of progress in distributing these funds, falling significantly behind our neighboring states and the District of Columbia. Senators Van Hollen and Cardin fought for the inclusion of these funds within the Congressionally-passed COVID relief measures, and secured over $258.1 million in direct support for Maryland to help families stay in their homes. According to recent data cited in the letter, 101,000 Maryland households are behind on rent and 119,000 children live in these households.

The Senators begin, “We are writing to strongly urge you to immediately increase the disbursement of the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds allocated to the state of Maryland to avoid having these funds revoked by the Treasury Department beginning on November 15th, leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable Marylanders needlessly at risk of losing their homes.”

“The state of Maryland directly received $258.1 million to help families stay in their homes by providing them with financial relief in the form of rent payments, utilities and arrearages. Despite having received its funding by early February, according to public data released by the U.S. Treasury Department, as of September 30th Maryland has only spent 26% of its allocated funds. During the same period, the national average of ERA funds spent by all state and local grantees was significantly higher, at 46%. Neighboring jurisdictions —Virginia (80%), Washington D.C. (99%), and Pennsylvania (36%) — have all spent a greater portion of their funding at this point relative to Maryland, as have all local government grantees within Maryland, particularly Anne Arundel County (74%), the City of Baltimore (85%), Frederick County (71%), and Prince George’s County (88%),” they continue. 

They press the urgency of this matter, writing, “The consequences of not ramping up assistance to households are serious and imminent. The protections of Maryland’s eviction moratorium expired on August 15th, making rent relief through the ERA many renters’ last hope for staying in their homes. And according to recent data from the National Equity Atlas, there were 101,000 Maryland households behind on rent, and 119,000 children in these households as of September. Maintaining housing stability for these families and particularly children must be a top priority.”

And note that per Treasury, “unless Maryland takes further action, state funding may be revoked and reallocated because it did not meet the expenditure or obligation requirements set out above.”

In light of these developments, we urge you to expedite the use of these funds to eligible households as soon as possible, and ask that you provide us with an update on the steps that the Department is taking to submit the required Program Improvement Plan, meet continuing minimum expenditure ratios set by the Treasury Department, and ensure that Marylanders are able to receive the assistance they need from this program to stay in their homes,” the Senators conclude. 

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Secretary Holt,

We are writing to strongly urge you to immediately increase the disbursement of the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds allocated to the state of Maryland to avoid having these funds revoked by the Treasury Department beginning on November 15th, leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable Marylanders needlessly at risk of losing their homes.

As you know, in December 2020 Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which provided $25 billion for the delivery of emergency rental assistance (ERA) to households facing unemployment or other financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state of Maryland directly received $258.1 million to help families stay in their homes by providing them with financial relief in the form of rent payments, utilities and arrearages.

Despite having received its funding by early February, according to public data released by the U.S. Treasury Department, as of September 30th Maryland has only spent 26% of its allocated funds.  During the same period, the national average of ERA funds spent by all state and local grantees was significantly higher, at 46%. Neighboring jurisdictions —Virginia (80%), Washington D.C. (99%), and Pennsylvania (36%) — have all spent a greater portion of their funding at this point relative to Maryland, as have all local government grantees within Maryland, particularly Anne Arundel County (74%), the City of Baltimore (85%), Frederick County (71%), and Prince George’s County (88%).

The consequences of not ramping up assistance to households are serious and imminent. The protections of Maryland’s eviction moratorium expired on August 15th, making rent relief through the ERA many renters’ last hope for staying in their homes. And according to recent data from the National Equity Atlas, there were 101,000 Maryland households behind on rent, and 119,000 children in these households as of September. Maintaining housing stability for these families and particularly children must be a top priority.

Adding to this urgency is the fact that on October 4, 2021, Treasury Deputy Secretary Adeyemo sent a letter to all ERA grantees to outline the process for reallocating unobligated ERA funds, in line with the legislation passed by Congress, in order to maximize the amount of assistance delivered and the number of households served by the program. Per this guidance, a state that does not spend at least 30%, or obligate 65%, of its funding by September 30th will be considered to have excess funds unless it is able to certify by November 15th that it has met those requirements, and submits a Program Improvement Plan to the Treasury Department. We have since been notified by the Treasury Department that unless Maryland takes further action, state funding may be revoked and reallocated because it did not meet the expenditure or obligation requirements set out above. 

In light of these developments, we urge you to expedite the use of these funds to eligible households as soon as possible, and ask that you provide us with an update on the steps that the Department is taking to submit the required Program Improvement Plan, meet continuing minimum expenditure ratios set by the Treasury Department, and ensure that Marylanders are able to receive the assistance they need from this program to stay in their homes. Please let us know if we can be of assistance, and thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Sincerely, 

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