More Prince George’s County renters are getting financial help, but backlog has many frustrated

Renters facing eviction are getting help in Prince George’s County, which leads Maryland in getting federal emergency rental assistance dollars out of the door. But frustration is growing among the 7,000 applicants who are still waiting for their funds to go through the system.

Prince George’s County distributed nearly double the amount of rental assistance dollars compared to its neighboring counties. Montgomery County has distributed $17.6 million and Anne Arundel County $9.6 million, according to state data.

“So far, our county has assisted 4,134 households with $30.8 million in aid,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said.

But she is concerned that there are as many as 22,000 residents facing eviction who may not know about the program.

“Eighteen months of past due rent payments are available from the beginning of April 2020. In fact, the U.S. Treasury recently released additional guidelines that we implemented, aimed at getting assistance to families more quickly and to make sure that we’re reaching everyone possible. Our Office of Community Relations is on the move,” she said.

She credits faith and community partners, such as Housing Initiative Partnership, for reaching eligible tenants and landlords by going door-to-door or through community-held events. Bilingual assistance is also available for renters or landlords, who need help understanding the complicated application process.

“The application process is not simple. They request a lot of paperwork. We have to review those cases, make sure that it goes according to the guidelines,” John Sanchez, with HIP, said.

The 30-year-old company, which creates housing and economic security for low- and moderate-income households, is helping applicants through the process. It’s even offering them free access to computers, scanners and printers that they may need to submit the right documentation, Sanchez said.

HIP also goes into the courts to ensure that those facing court-mandated evictions know their rights.

“It’s more (than) just to pay their rent, right? It’s also about having stability. They are looking to find a safe place, not just a place to live,” Sanchez said.

HIP has also coordinated outreach with other nonprofits, churches and tenant associations to canvass apartment communities, knock on doors, pass out information at food distributions to alert tenants to what financial assistance is available, he said.

Meanwhile, the county is dealing with a backlog of some 7,000 applications that need processing.

“The tenants are frustrated and the landlords are frustrated. And that’s why we’re just encouraging everyone. Let’s please just work together as best we can to make sure this happens as quickly as possible. Winter is coming. And we want this issue to be addressed and for people to be secure in their housing. So we still have a lot of work to do,” Alsobrooks said.

The county has a hotline for those with questions about the emergency rental assistance program or for those who want to check on the status of their application. That number is 301-883-6504. Residents can apply at the Emergency Rental Assistance Program website.

There’s also an ERAP fair on Saturday, where applicants can learn more. See the details below.

(Courtesy Housing Initiative Partnership)

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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