$31.4M federal grant to be used for rental, utility assistance

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Federal grant money will help Montgomery County residents struggling to pay for rent and utilities.

A $31.4 million federal grant will help with rent debt and prevent evictions for those who have no repayment plan with landlords or other options to avoid eviction.

Funding for utility assistance will help prevent shut-offs.

According to a survey by the county’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs, as many as 15% of county renters were delinquent on part or all of their rent in June.

During a previous COVID-19 rental assistance program application period, 43% of the 9,000 applications were from Black residents and 38% were from Hispanic residents.

The average debt was $3,360, but some households owed $10,000 or more , according to a staff report.

More than half of the applications were from areas identified as high-need.

The program will begin taking applications in mid-March. Households earning 50% or less of the area median income and those who have been unemployed for more than 90 days will be prioritized.

The program has not been finalized and was submitted to the federal government for approval.

The County Council unanimously approved the funds on Tuesday. It also unanimously approved another $30.2 million federal grant to cover the Ride On bus system’s operating costs related to COVID-19 prevention, preparation and response.

Specifically, the funds will pay for personnel costs for bus operators during the health crisis.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at [email protected].