LARGO, Md. (DC News Now) — On Tuesday afternoon, the county council passed a bill to create a rental assistance fund program. It’s a big step towards helping people struggling to pay the rent in Prince George’s County.

The meeting was filled with residents in support of this bill including CASA, a Maryland advocacy group.

Heather Murphy, a single mother and longtime resident of Prince George’s County stood in front of the County Council pleading with leaders to pass the bill. She says she’s exhausted all her resources.

“I’m personally facing eviction now. I’ve been out of work on short-term disability since the end of December. My rent was just increased by 7%. I’ve been trying social services and HUD housing. I’m told there’s no assistance in PG county and maybe I should even look at going somewhere else and it’s, it’s out of control,” said Murphy.

Now she’s on the verge of eviction as her bills pile up, and she’s hoping her voice makes a difference.

“It’s scary and it also adds extra stress and anxiety on top of something that I’m already going through. This is not because I’m a lazy person, it’s because my health issues and trying to get better, made me fall so far behind. I can’t catch up.” said Murphy.

Council members say the COVID-19 emergency funds used for rental assistance are running out. Now they’re looking at a more permanent solution. The bill will allow families to get assistance for up to six months, and they can reapply every two years.

“We have to think about what can we do as a community and I think when it comes to making people’s tax dollars work for them, it should be going back into social services and so that is what this people’s County has really focused on is programs that are really focused on making sure people’s money work for them,” said District 7 council member Krystal Oriadha.

Some landlords also spoke at the meeting, saying they don’t want to be looked at as the bad guy.
“Sometimes there’s forces of work which are kind of beyond landlord’s control. Maybe something can be done to tone down the adversarial nature of everything,” said the landlord.

Ultimately the county council voted in favor of passing the bill on Tuesday. Now the challenge is ensuring there’s enough money in the budget to execute this new program.

“Next step is making sure that a budget amendment for this bill is passed, and you have to hold every single one of us accountable to that standard,” said Oriadha.

“I fundamentally believe that if we want to focus on public safety and health outcomes, and job security part of that is making sure that people have access to housing, people have access to quality health care, people have access to food,” she continued.

Council member Oriadha says she’s hoping to kick off the program with at least $1 to $2 million dollars in funding.