Montgomery County officials today launched the second phase of the COVID Rent Relief Program to provide financial assistance to eligible residents. Administered by the County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the program will accept applications on a rolling basis while funds remain available.
The $20-million funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES act expands rental assistance and homelessness prevention to low-income households that have experienced a loss of income due to the COVID-19 health crisis. The funding was introduced by County Executive Marc Elrich and approved by the County Council in July.
More than $1 million in financial assistance was given to eligible households in the initial phase of the program. DHHS has continued to maintain an active waitlist and the process for requesting assistance has been streamlined since the first phase was introduced earlier this year.
Eligible renters must certify that they have income under 60 percent of the average median income, which is $65,529 for a family of three; that they lost income due to COVID-19; that they are rent-burdened and behind on rent; and that they have been a resident of Montgomery County since February 2020. Households may have formal or informal lease arrangements.
Approved households may receive up to $4,000 for rent arrears and a rent credit for future months, paid directly to the landlord when a formal lease agreement exists. Eligible households who have an informal rental arrangement will receive rental assistance based on their monthly rental costs up to $4,000. For households with informal rental arrangements that do not have a lease in their name, the grant may be provided directly to the tenant. All assistance is based on the availability of funds.
For more information, including details about program requirements and an online application are on the County’s COVID-19 website. Households can complete the online application or contact 311 for additional assistance. Renters facing an immediate loss of housing should also call 311 to discuss their situation with Montgomery County Housing Stabilization Services.
Households that have already received a COVID Rent Relief Grant, a State Assisted Housing Relief Program grant (through their property), or those who are receiving a housing voucher are not eligible. The COVID-19 Rent Relief Program is separate and different than the Rental Assistance Program operated by Housing Opportunities Commission, but households may apply to both.
Applications will be prioritized based on areas of highest COVID-19 impact, with households outside of the initial “high impact” neighborhoods placed on a waitlist and contacted as capacity allows.
DHHS has developed a Homeless Prevention Index to evaluate all neighborhoods in relation to COVID-19 impact, housing stress, and social determinants. Applications will be prioritized based on areas of highest COVID impact, with households outside of the initial “high impact” neighborhoods placed on a waitlist and contacted as capacity allows. This will enable to the program to ensure that an equity lenses is utilized, recognizing that communities of color have been significantly impacted by COVID, disproportionately experience homelessness, and are more likely to get evicted.