Renters face deadline for help as COVID-19 infections grow
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A moratorium on evictions is now extended to the end of January, and renters have until Wednesday to apply for assistance from the Maine State Housing Authority.
“Housing stability is so important and keeping people so in their homes is absolutely critical to fighting this pandemic when we’re being told not to go out and stay at home to stay safe,” said Maine State Housing Authority Director Daniel Brennan.
Landlords have been able to work with tenants to get some or most of their rent, said Brit Vitalius, Southern Maine Landlord Association president. Vitalius believes rent relief packages have helped fill the gaps.
He worries about landlords having their hands tied in dealing with problems.
“Any time landlords are prohibited from keeping their buildings safe and dealing with problem tenants, it creates a challenging situation not just for landlords but for everyone,” Vitalius told WGME-TV.
The Maine State Housing Authority has paid out more than $11 million to cover rent for people affected by the pandemic. As of Dec. 21, more than $8.5 million in funds remained, but the agency believes most of it will be used. Renters have until Wednesday to apply for the current expanded rent relief program.
“There’s just an awful lot of demand and our community action agencies partners are working very hard to get that money out,” Brennan said.
As predicted, the number of coronavirus infections grew Tuesday after a Christmas holiday in which many people traveled or gathered with families against official advice.
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, predicted another surge of COVID-19 infections because of gatherings and more people getting tested after returning from travel for the holiday.
The Maine CDC reported 590 new cases and seven more deaths on Tuesday. That’s a big increase from the past few days, but it’s lower than last week, when the daily count topped 700 on several days.
Maine’s seven-day average for new coronavirus cases is 453.3, which is an increase from 430.7 a week ago and 163.6 a month ago.