Gov. Janet Mills said Thursday she's devoting $5 million more in funds for rental relief, which will allow the state to double the size of rent relief payments offered through the Maine State Housing Authority. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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People struggling to pay rent due to the coronavirus pandemic could receive increased aid from the state starting next week, Gov. Janet Mills said Thursday.

Mills said she’ll dedicate $5 million more from state coronavirus relief funds to double the amount of aid for which renters can qualify.

Eligible renters could qualify for up to $1,000 per month in rental relief, up from $500 previously. The Maine State Housing Authority is administering the relief program, and renters can apply for the increased funding starting Monday.

Mills also signed an executive order Thursday to extend new protections to renters facing eviction, as Maine courts resume processing eviction cases next month. The new protections and the additional rental relief funds also coincide with the end of the $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefits from the federal government.

“I’m very concerned that many people will be facing a housing cliff due to losing income, and also losing rent relief and becoming subject to eviction,” Mills said. ‘The last thing Maine people need to worry about in the middle of a pandemic is losing their home.”

The $1,000 monthly relief from the state will be available for three months, and can be used to pay rent backlogs from previous months. In accepting these payments directly from MaineHousing, landlords agree not to evict tenants.

As of July 16, MaineHousing had received 6,750 applications for the $500 rent relief payments since those began this spring, Mills said.

Under the executive order on evictions, landlords will have to provide 45 days notice to a tenant to vacate the property, rather than the 30 days outlined in state law.