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The Kennebec Valley Community Action Program (KVCAP) will administer an expanded rental assistance program for residents in Kennebec, Somerset, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties, that will double the amount that eligible households impacted economically by COVID-19 can receive, and extend the number of months applicants can receive support.
Governor Janet Mills announced on July 30th 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 an initial $5 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to support the expansion. The Governor today 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 next week and as the Federal government appears poised to reduce Federal unemployment benefits, leaving people concerned they may face a housing cliff.
“Many Maine people are still experiencing significant financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, and the last thing they need to worry about is losing their home,” said Governor Janet Mills. “While the future of the $600 boost in Federal unemployment benefits remains in question, we believe the combination of an expanded rental relief program and continued protections through the updated Executive Order can protect renters while also serving landlords. My Administration will continue to work closely with MaineHousing and local agencies across the state to help keep Mainers housed.”
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 launches next Monday, 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 renter 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.
“This will be a great help to many individuals and families across our state,” said Suzanne Walsh, KVCAP CEO. “Our Agency staff processed over 1,700 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, not improved. This new program comes at a critical time. We are grateful to be able to help our community in this important way with the support of Governor Mills and MaineHousing.”
Applications for the program will go live on the Maine Community Action Partnership website: www.mecap.org on August 3. As soon as possible after receiving the completed on-line application, residents living in Kennebec, Somerset, Lincoln, and Sagadahoc counties will be contacted directly by KVCAP staff to process and confirm the information provided on the application. Staff will also connect with applicants to identify what other assistance the household might need and work with the individual or family to connect them to additional services. KVCAP staff will 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.
“We know that eviction concerns across Maine are significant. We want people to remain safe and secure in their homes – and this extended program will help,” said Daniel Brennan, Director of MaineHousing. “As we work on a number of solutions needed to address housing challenges that are exacerbated by the pandemic, we hope that landlords and tenants are continuing to work together to keep Mainers housed.”
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 on July 30 that continues expanded timeframe 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 to a tenant to leave, rather than 30 days under law. If the landlord is attempting to evict those at-will tenants, the Order also extends an eviction notice timeframe from 7 to 30 days.
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.