Council Approves $28 Million in COVID-19 Related Appropriations

The County Council yesterday approved about $28 million in appropriations to provide assistance to residents and various entities dealing with financial issues related to COVID-19 emergency.

The largest appropriation, $20 million was requested by County Executive Marc Elrich from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to expand rental assistance for eviction and homelessness prevention.

The funding would augment the county’s COVID-19: Rent Relief program, which currently has a waiting list for assistance.

A stay on evictions has been lifted and courts plan to resume hearing cases on August 31. Applications for the funding should be available in late August, according to a press release.

“To avoid the eviction court revolving door, the Renters Alliance believes that a maximum effort campaign must be set up well before a renter’s day in court,” said Matt Losak, executive director of the Montgomery County Renters Alliance, in a press release.  “The objective is to advise renters personally and directly how to avoid court appearances altogether where possible, and if court becomes necessary, to help them prepare effective defenses against eviction. Many renters in need are not likely to be aware of the subsidy program, or may be afraid to take advantage of it.”

The council also approved a special appropriation of $2,025,000 to provide short-term assistance for financially distressed, affordable common ownership communities.

The funds will be used by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs to provide assistance to affordable common ownership communities in financial distress because of revenue lost since the start of the public health emergency, according to a press release.

“During the great recession, many common ownership communities were overwhelmed with residents hit hard by the economic downturn, resulting in those communities being unable to maintain their most basic infrastructure, facilities and amenities,” Councilmember Evan Glass (D-At Large) said. “This initiative is a critically important and strategic investment to prevent a similar situation from happening as a result of the Covid-19 induced economic recession. ”

In addition, the council passed a $5.59 million special appropriation initiated by Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz (D-At Large) and Nancy Navarro (D-District 4) to establish Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar (For Our Health and Wellbeing), which will provide wrap-around services including COVID-19 testing, health resources and public education targeted to the county’s Latino residents.

The initial appropriation as introduced last week was $7.5 million, but was reduced by $1.9 million for contact tracing, which is eligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the council said in a press release.

Finally, the council okayed a $395,000 special appropriation to increase mental health services in the county.

This funding will add eight, full-time specialists to staff a crisis intervention hotline (301.738.2255) operated by EveryMind through December 2020. 

Image from Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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