Governor Expands COVID Related Rental Assistance; DCP Administers for Washington and Hancock Counties
Mon, Aug 3rd, 2020
by DCP Staff
Ellsworth, ME: Downeast Community Partners (DCP) will locally administer an expanded rental assistance program that will double the amount households impacted economically by COVID-19 are eligible to receive, and extend the number of months applicants can receive support.
Governor Janet Mills announced Thursday, July 30 that the partnership between MaineHousing and Maine’s Community Action Agencies will increase its rental assistance from $500 to $1,000 through the COVID-19 Rental Relief Program beginning next Monday, August 3rd. The Governor, who established the program with MaineHousing and the ten Community Action Agencies across the state in April, is dedicating $5 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to support the expansion. The Governor also signed an Executive Order continuing expanded timeframe protections for renters in the evictions process. The moves come as the Maine Supreme Judicial Court plans to reopen courts for hearings this week and as the Federal government appears poised to reduce Federal unemployment benefits, leaving people concerned they may face a housing cliff.
The COVID-19 Rent Relief Program is for renters who cannot afford to pay their rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Applicants who applied for and received funds under the initial program that ran from April through July are able to apply to receive support through this newly expanded program.
- The program, that launched Monday, August 3, provides up to $1,000 per month for a maximum of three months for rent not covered by any other federal, state, or local program.
- The three-month period is for prior months and/or the current month.
- The applicant is the tenant and the benefit is paid directly to the landlord.
- If the landlord agrees to participate in the program, they agree to postpone any balance of payment, not forgive it, and further agree not to evict for non-payment of rent for the month(s) for which COVID-19 Rent Relief was applied.
- Applications for the program are on the Maine Community Action Partnership website: www.mecap.org.
- As soon as possible after receiving the completed on-line application, residents living in Washington and Hancock counties will be contacted directly by DCP staff to process and confirm the information provided on the application.
- The DCP staff will also connect with applicants to see what other assistance the household might need and work with the individual or family to connect them to other services.
- DCP staff will also work directly with the landlord to enroll them into the program and obtain the necessary paperwork so that payment can be made directly to the landlord.
- More information about the COVID-19 Rental Relief Program, including eligibility requirements, application materials, statistics about the program, and frequently asked questions may be found at www.mainehousing.org/covidrent.
DCP staff processed over 460 applications for the initial program that provided a one-time $500 support payment. There has been growing anxiety for many households impacted economically by COVID-19 who received a benefit in April, May or June, and whose financial circumstances have not changed nor improved. This new program comes at a critical time. ““We have many clients that will be extremely relieved to know that they will be able to have additional assistance with their housing costs. While some may have been able to go back to work, it will take them many months to catch up with those monthly expenses that fell behind all while trying to pay for current months as well. This is a huge help to the residents of Hancock & Washington counties.” Lee Hardison, Energy Service director at DCP, stated when she learned of the expanded program. Hardison oversees the Rental Assistance program at DCP.
MaineHousing and the Maine Community Action Partnership established the program in April at the urging of Governor Mills to help prevent evictions in the midst of the pandemic. This builds on a Financial Order signed by Governor Mills earlier this month that dedicates $2.2 million in Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to also support the COVID-19 Rental Relief Program. The Administration considers the $5 million as an initial investment with the potential for additional funding in the future, depending on the need and additional support from the Federal government, for which Governor Mills continues to advocate.
The Governor also signed an Executive Order today that continues expanded time frame protections for renters in the evictions process. The Governor’s Order allows evictions scheduled for hearing prior to, and unrelated to, the pandemic to move forward. However, it continues to protect tenants who are considered “at will”, meaning they do not have a legal agreement with their landlord and cannot make their rent payment, by requiring a landlord to provide at least 45 days’ notice, rather than 30 under law, to a tenant to leave. If the landlord is attempting to evict those at-will tenants, the Order also extends an eviction notice time frame from 7 to 30 days.