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Maine's deployment of rent relief money will likely lead to fewer evictions, housing experts say

The Maine State Housing Authority has $152 million in this most recent round of funding from the American Rescue Plan to give to tenants to pay landlords.

PORTLAND, Maine — Two changes that expand eligibility for Maine people to get rent relief went into effect Monday just days after the federal moratorium eviction expired.

MaineHousing said the changes now allow anyone to apply if they have financial difficulty "during the pandemic," as opposed to the old language which said "because of the pandemic." The other change increased the total amount of assistance a household can receive from 15 months up to 18 months.

MaineHousing has $152 million to disperse, according to director Daniel Brennan.

The federal moratorium on evictions expired on Saturday, July 31. MaineHousing director Daniel Brennan said they do not expect to see an "avalanche" of new eviction filings.

"There are many people that probably haven't accessed the program yet that probably could. There's plenty of money for everyone," said Brennan. "Don't think you're going to take your neighbor's money and someone else needs it more than you. We can help everyone with the money that we have."

Brennan, and Maine Affordable Housing Coalition director Greg Payne, said other states have not been as effective in giving out the rent relief dollars, which could lead to many eviction filings. Payne said Maine, despite being overwhelmed by applications at the outset, has worked through a backlog to get money to those in need, which should keep a large number of evictions down.

"MaineHousing and the community action agencies distributing those funds are doing a very good job making sure those dollars are deployed to the people who need them. That's one of the reasons why I don't anticipate that as this moratorium comes off that we're going to see a dramatic spike in eviction filings," said Payne.

Brennan said if you have applied for rent relief during the first round, it should be easier to apply again.

If you were not eligible before the changes, you do not have to apply again. Your application will be re-evaluated to see if you now qualify, Brennan said.

You can apply for rent relief here: https://www.mainehousing.org/programs-services/rental/rentaldetail/covid-19-rental-relief-program