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Maine landlords will be able to file for evictions next month

Governor Mills issued an executive order in April prohibiting most evictions, but starting Aug. 3, landlords in Maine will once again be able to start the process.

PORTLAND, Maine — After living on unemployment for months, Amanda Wentworth said she is thankful to be back to work and able to pay her rent. But she still worries about the future.

"Especially where I work in a restaurant," Wentworth said.

At the height of the pandemic, Gov. Janet Mills issued an executive order saying landlords could not evict tenants for non-payment of rent until the courts reopen.

"It gave me at ease. Something lifted off my shoulders," Wentworth said.

Beginning August 3, court hearings will resume and landlords in Maine will once again be able to start the eviction process.

"I think what tenants are struggling with is a whole lot of stress about losing their housing at exactly the same time they need to be housed," Maine Affordable Housing Coalition Director Greg Payne said.

Payne said while the number of tenants who have continued to pay their rents while out of work is higher than expected, it's how they've been able to do it that has him concerned.

RELATED: Gov. Mills signs order preventing evictions amid coronavirus

"They are cobbling together resources that are now expiring; using stimulus checks that are now spent. They've been using enhanced unemployment benefits that are about to expire," Payne said.

At the end of the month, the extra $600 in federal unemployment benefits is set to expire.

Brit Vitalius is the president of the Southern Maine Landlord Association and is a landlord himself.

"Landlords have seen we are all in this together. I have not talked to any landlords who would want to evict a tenant because their job was impacted from COVID," Vitalius said.

He is also concerned about what will happen when the extra money runs out.

"We are trying to figure out what that is and what resources we're going to need."

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Lindsay Crete, a spokesperson from Mills' office, said the Mills administration is evaluating recommendations from the Economic Recovery Committee, which includes a proposal for a rapid rehousing program, rental assistance program, and eviction prevention program.

"With the $600 in additional Federal unemployment benefits scheduled to expire, she is deeply concerned about the housing cliff that many Maine people, particularly lower-income Maine people, may face," Crete said.

Last week, the Governor signed a Financial Order dedicating $2.2 million in Federal Community Development Block Grant funding to address emergency housing needs for low-and moderate-income people as a result of COVID-19.

According to federal filings, there are 5,801 evictions in Maine per year.

Payne said no one knows how many evictions will be filed starting August 3, but predicts there will be a lot.

He said Maine doesn't have an eviction database. He is creating one to inform policymakers and people about where evictions cases are being filed. 

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