State Expands Rental Relief Program to Help Prevent Evictions, Counter Reductions in Federal Unemployment Benefits

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Governor Janet T. Mills at a Deering Oaks Park, Portland, Press Conference.

Governor Janet T. Mills announced today that MaineHousing will double its rental assistance from $500. to $1,000. through the COVID-19 Rental Relief Program beginning on Monday, August 3rd.  The Governor, who established the program with MaineHousing 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 protections for renters in the eviction 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.

With the support of $5 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds from Governor Mills, MaineHousing is doubling its rental assistance payment from $500. to $1,000 through the COVID-19 Rental Relief Program.  Under the program, each household that meets certain ability to pay requirements may receive a payment of up to $1,000. in rental assistance paid directly to the landlord for up to three months.  The assistance may also be used to pay for overdue rent.  In accepting the payments, the landlord agrees not to evict the tenant for non-payment for the month the payment is issued.

MaineHousing 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) funds to also support the COVID-19 Rental Relief Program.  The Administration considers the $5 million 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.