COVID-19

As colder months approach, Maine housing advocates seek new resources

Robbie Feinberg Oct 7, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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A team from the Landing Place, an organization for at-risk youth, prepares bags of food and other supplies for families in Maine's midcoast region. Robbie Feinberg/Maine Public Radio
COVID-19

As colder months approach, Maine housing advocates seek new resources

Robbie Feinberg Oct 7, 2020
A team from the Landing Place, an organization for at-risk youth, prepares bags of food and other supplies for families in Maine's midcoast region. Robbie Feinberg/Maine Public Radio
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Becca Gildred unlocks the door to a tiny building in coastal Rockport, Maine. It’s traditionally been used by her agency — the Knox County Homeless Coalition — for meetings and classes. But today, there are cans stacked to the ceiling.

“Right now, it’s warehousing extra food, because of trying to meet the need, from day one, of COVID. We did not stop,” said Gildred, who is the organization’s director of development.

The agency serves about 400 people across three rural, coastal counties. Executive Director Stephanie Primm said its clients are often working families, people who can’t find an affordable place to live as local real estate prices have skyrocketed.

The pandemic has only made things harder. It has affected millions of workers across the country. Now, some benefits have started to shrink.

“When people were forced to stay home together, and there were already tenuous situations, we saw a lot of people getting kicked out of those situations,” Primm said.

In Maine, courts began to once again hear eviction cases at the beginning of August. So housing advocates are now trying to reimagine the state’s homeless resource system as they prepare for the wave of additional need.

And she says continued economic woes could leave many more people needing help. The federal government announced in September it was halting evictions through the end of the year for certain renters who can show they can’t afford rent because of the pandemic. But the Aspen Institute still estimates that more than 30 million could be at risk of eviction in the U.S.

“We’re anticipating a significant increase in need over the next six months,” Primm said.

In Maine, agencies have opened temporary shelters and rented out entire hotels to handle the need so far. And the state recently put aside $15 million to expand a relief program for certain people who can’t afford their rent because of the pandemic. It will provide $1,000 a month for up to three months.

For the long term, MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan said he wants to rethink the state’s homeless services system — to build more affordable housing, plus smaller, scattered shelters across the state.

“Going back to a system where people are congregating tightly into a building for a short period of time and then back out onto the street, it doesn’t strike me that we should go back to that,” Brennan said.

But in the short term, advocates are trying to get people housed now to ensure they have a warm place to stay. That’s urgent heading into colder months, in a state known for its long, harsh winters.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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