In Maryland, Anne Arundel County is rolling out an innovative Eviction Protection Program to help people throughout the community overcome the financial hardships that the coronavirus has brought. As the pandemic has forced millions into unemployment, rent and mortgage payments have been put on hold, but the possibility of foreclosure and eviction still looms for when payments resume in the future. Anne Arundel’s progressive program relies on the revenues of video slot machines at Live! Casino to help for citizens struggling to make ends meet.
Coronavirus Initial Impact
The country has taken drastic measures to help stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus, changing the daily lives of every American. The need for immediate social distancing and sanitary practices that limit social interaction has led to a change in the American workforce that has left many without work. Virtually overnight, those working the service industry, such as retail employees, restaurant workers, or casino employees, found themselves completely without work.
Unemployment rates throughout the country have reached an all-time high, leaving millions of Americans without work and struggling to make ends meet as the country has shut down to counteract the spread of the coronavirus. In response, Anne Arundel County, like many other areas throughout the United States, has suspended evictions and foreclosures. This temporary suspension of payments is a small comfort, considering that the missed payments for tenants, landlords, and homeowners will continue to add up over time. At some point, payments will have to be made, and for those who have lost work during this pandemic, those payments pose a serious threat to their financial security.
Slots as a Solution
Arundel Community Development Services Policy and Development Coordinator Erin Karpewicz noted that many people in the county spend more than 50% of their income on housing. For those who have found themselves recently unemployed due to the pandemic, this means that the potential loss of income could lead to homelessness if they are unable to pay for their housing once the suspension of payments is lifted. Anne Arundel officials have recognized the immediate concerns for these groups and are prepared to roll out their Eviction Prevention Program early next week.
The program will turn to the proceeds generated from video slot machines at Live! Casino, to help benefit households that financially qualify. In order to qualify for the program, residents must be earning 80% or less of the area median income. This figure is adjusted for household size; for example, the threshold for a family of four would be $75,500. If a household does qualify financially, they are responsible for providing a letter stating that their rent has fallen behind, due to a disruption of income from the coronavirus. This household must also provide a form of documentation for the household’s income. The Eviction Prevention Program officially opens on April 20, and Anne Arundel County officials are urging residents to take advantage of financial counseling through Arundel Community Development services.
Hope in Trying Times
The Eviction Prevention Program is a result of the efforts of the Local Development Council. The LDC is a state-mandated group responsible for determining how a video lottery terminal facility affects the surrounding community, and what community needs can be met through the spending of proceeds produced from these machines. Anne Arundel receives 4.51% of revenues from the video lottery terminals at Live!, which will directly benefit affected residents in the three zip codes surrounding the casino. Additional money from the county’s general fund will benefit the remaining residents in other zip codes throughout the county.
In the 2020 calendar year, Live! Has already made $91.5 million from video lottery terminals alone. This revenue resulted in the $500,000 made available through the Eviction Prevention Program and will be paired with $500,000 from the county’s general fund. Officials noted their decision was easy, due to the clear immediate need for the county workforce, which is largely made up of retail and hospitality workers.
Anne Arundel officials are making a clear effort to use the revenue generated from local casinos to help benefit and support their community. The combination of this financial support, as well as their financial counseling resources, provide a safety net for at-risk citizens, hopefully easing some of the concerns that the coronavirus has caused. The development of such a program could act as a blueprint for counties throughout the country, who are looking to provide support to residents who need it most.