BALTIMORE — Maryland failed to reach a federal benchmark early this fall for distributing COVID-19 relief funds it received for rent to tenants in danger of eviction, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. Gov. Larry Hogan’s office dismissed any threat of losing money and said payments are moving at a good clip.
The department wrote U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., late last month that Maryland was among the states that could lose some funding because it failed to spend 30% of the money by Sept. 30, The Baltimore Sun reported. The state “may be subject to reallocation because it is below the 30% expenditure ratio,” the Oct. 26 email said.
Maryland began its Emergency Rental Assistance Program in May 2020 with the help of $401 million in federal money. About $143 million was divided among the state’s eight largest jurisdictions, with the remainder sent to the Department of Housing & Community Development for statewide distribution.
Van Hollen and fellow Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin wrote Housing & Community Development secretary Kenneth Holt on Friday urging more disbursements. The state needs to act quickly “to avoid having these funds revoked by the Treasury Department beginning on November 15th, leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable Marylanders needlessly at risk of losing their homes,” the letter said.
Housing & Community Development is a Cabinet agency under the Republican Hogan, whose spokesman Mike Ricci said the state isn’t at risk of losing funds. The Treasury Department recently told states there are a few ways they can avoid or mitigate losing funds, including submitting “program improvement” plans, The Sun reported.
Ricci cited forecasts from Housing & Community Development that its October report will show the state has “more than exceeded Treasury’s targets.” He accused Van Hollen of not doing his “homework.”
State eviction protections expired on Aug. 15 and a federal eviction moratorium expired at the end of that month.
About three-fifths of the states joined Maryland in not meeting the initial timeline, according to Treasury Department data. In their letter, Van Hollen and Cardin noted that Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., have spent larger portions of their funding than Maryland, “as have all local government grantees.”