Montgomery County officials said Wednesday they are drawing from millions of dollars of state and federal money intended for a future round of rental assistance to fill all eligible applications from a previous round that closed last year.
Ilana Branda, the county’s deputy chief of services to end and prevent homelessness, said the county will likely need $10 million to $15 million to fulfill applications submitted before the Dec. 31, 2021, deadline.
Branda told reporters during a weekly county briefing that applications for rental aid used to be around $10,000 to $12,000 per household, but have dipped in recent months to $7,000 to $8,000.
She said it’s difficult to know if that trend will continue — some people have been able to return to work, but some haven’t. The rental assistance money the county has been providing has helped thousands of families stabilize their future rental payments, county officials have said.
“Some of what we’re seeing now was really helping people catch up where they had insurmountable rental debt that they had accumulated, but they’re in a better position to stabilize and maintain their rent payments moving forward,” Branda said.
County officials are concerned about the decrease in the most recent round of state funding.
Branda and Amanda Harris, the county’s chief of services to end and prevent homelessness, told the County Council last month they the county is receiving $41 million from the federal and state governments, combined.
From that round of funding, county officials are using $10 million to $15 million to serve the latest round of applications.
Of that, $6.5 million is coming from the state. That’s roughly $20 million less than what county officials anticipated. That money would help about 6,000 households, they said.
The prior round of emergency rental assistance funding was $60.4 million total from the state and federal governments, plus $28.1 million from the state.
Branda said Wednesday that county officials have asked the state for more transparency about how funding is determined.
Sara Luell, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs, wrote in an email that allocations “were based upon the percentage of renter households, the amount that are housing cost burdened and poverty levels.”
The Department of Housing and Community Affairs allocates the state’s emergency rental assistance money to different jurisdictions. Luell wrote that the state used the Urban Insitute’s analysis of U.S. Census data to determine the allocations.
“Montgomery County received a combined $67.5M in federal and state funding from [Emergency Rental Assistance Program 1], which represented 17.8% of all ERAP funding allocated to county programs statewide,” Luell wrote. “Under ERAP 2, Montgomery County has so far received a combined $41M in federal and state funding, which represented 16.5% of all ERAP funding allocated to county programs statewide to date. The percentage share of funds is approximately equal to the percentage of Maryland renter households that live in Montgomery County – 17.2%.”
County Executive Marc Elrich, Branda and other officials said that there is higher demand for the money, given the amount of renters in Montgomery County and the greater overall need, versus the rest of Maryland.
Branda said that includes a higher number of low-income renters and greater number of households that are severely cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 50% of their income on rent.
One of the issues, Branda said, is that other jurisdictions had a broader range of eligibility than Montgomery County, meaning more of a range in income limits and other factors.
County officials are still determining when to open up another round of funds and what the eligibility will be, Branda said.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com