Virus Outbreak Maine Unemployment

The population center of Jay, Maine, is seen April 15, 2020.

(The Center Square) – With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact the economy, Maine homeowners and renters face new challenges to keep up with payments.

Results of a U.S. Census Bureau survey show 9 percent of Maine residents were unable to pay their rent in June, and 14 percent expressed doubt they could pay in July, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The state in April launched a $5 million program for emergency rent relief that provides $500 to eligible households. Roughly $3 million has been distributed so far.

Even though $500 won’t cover a month’s rent in many places, nearly 6,000 applications have already been approved.

It’s a sign the need is there, Craig Saddlemire, manager of the Raise-Op Housing Cooperative in Lewiston, told the Herald.

“A lot of folks were facing a significant housing crunch before this,” he said. “Now we’re providing some stopgaps for the most vulnerable. But for a real recovery, we need real housing solutions, not homelessness.”

With housing the biggest monthly expense for the majority of people, difficulty making rent or the mortgage is a key indicator of consumer debt.

The data analytics firm Black Knight reported more than 3.5 million homeowners nationwide behind on their mortgage payments in May, but that figure improved slightly in June.

Camden National Bank in mid-March began a 90-day loan deferral program, and had accrued nearly 800 deferrals by late May, totaling about $143 million, or 4 percent of their lending. The bank recently offered another 90-day extension, but nearly half of the borrowers have said they can resume making payments.