Enhanced rental assistance available to local renters

ELLSWORTH — Downeast Community Partners (DCP) will locally administer an expanded rental assistance program that will double the amount households affected economically by COVID-19 are eligible to receive, and extend the number of months applicants can receive support.

Governor Janet Mills announced July 30 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 Aug. 3. The Governor, who established the program with MaineHousing and the 10 Community Action Agencies across the state in April, is dedicating $5 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to support the expansion. The Governor 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 this week and as the federal government appears poised to reduce federal unemployment benefits, leaving people concerned they may face a housing cliff.

  • 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, which launched Monday, Aug. 3, 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 tenant and the benefit is paid directly to the landlord.
  • If the landlord agrees to participate in the program, he or she agrees to postpone any balance of payment, not forgive it, and further agrees not to evict for non-payment of rent for the month(s) for which COVID-19 Rent Relief was applied.
  • Applications for the program are on the Maine Community Action Partnership website: www.mecap.org.
  • As soon as possible after receiving the completed online application, residents living in Washington and Hancock counties will be contacted directly by DCP staff to process and confirm the information provided on the application.
  • The DCP staff also will connect with applicants to see what other assistance the household might need and work with the individual or family to connect them to other services.
  • DCP staff also 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.
  • 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.

DCP staff processed over 460 applications for the initial program that provided a one-time $500 support payment. There has been growing anxiety for many households affected economically by COVID-19 that received a benefit in April, May or June, and whose financial circumstances have not changed nor improved.

“We have many clients that will be extremely relieved to know that they will be able to have additional assistance with their housing costs,” said Lee Hardison, who is energy service director at DCP and oversees the rental assistance program. “While some may have been able to go back to work, it will take them many months to catch up with those monthly expenses that fell behind all while trying to pay for current months as well. This is a huge help to the residents of Hancock and Washington counties.”

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