SALISBURY – Up to $7.3 million in grant funding from the state could provide emergency rental and utility assistance to Wicomico County residents.
On Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council voted 5-0, with Councilmen Josh Hastings and John Cannon abstaining, to accept up to $7,380,680 in Emergency Rental Assistance Program grant funding from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
The Department of Housing and Community Development, through the Maryland Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, has been awarded $401,575,014 for financial programs to prevent eviction. Wicomico County is among 15 counties applying for up to $258 million.
Wicomico County Planner Jesse Drewer said the funds are expected to help citizens needing emergency rental and utility assistance. While the Wicomico County Department of Planning, Zoning and Community Development will administer the expenditure of funds, the money will be divided among three subrecipients.
“This allows us more flexibility in reaching wide numbers of people,” he told the council this week. “This also covers utilities.”
If approved by the state, Salisbury Neighborhood Housing Services will receive $587,500, Shore-Up, Inc. will receive $1,075,000 and Wicomico County Habitat for Humanity will receive $1,000,000. The planning, zoning and community development department will also receive $100,000 for administrative support and case management.
“Currently, we know how the funding will be distributed to our subrecipients,” Drewer said. “The exact policy guidelines of who qualifies and the income level still hasn’t been released yet. We’re expecting that by the middle or end of this month when the grant awards are announced.”
Drewer told council members the county submitted an application for funding to the state last week. He said once that funding is approved, 50% had to be spent by July 30 and 65% had to be spent by Sept. 30.
“We’re expecting grant awards by the 15th of this month,” he said, “and expenditures have to be started by May 1, if not sooner.”
When asked about previous grant awards the county received for rental assistance, Drewer said funds from the most recent grant round had yet to be spent.
“They have been allocated but they currently have not been spent,” he replied. “Previous rounds, we spent approximately $700,000 so far.”
Councilwoman Nicole Acle asked if funds for utility assistance would be paid to the landlord or to the tenant.
“We do not have any guidance yet if we would be paying directly to the tenant or to the landlord,” he said. “But it’s expected to be the landlord right now.”
With no further discussion, the council voted 5-0 to accept up to $7,380,680 in the grant funding.