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Baker boosts emergency housing aid

The additional $20 million is intended to help prevent a mass of evictions and foreclosures from the pandemic shutdown.

Governor Charlie Baker.
Governor Charlie Baker.Stuart Cahill/BH

The Baker administration said Wednesday it will pump another $20 million into programs to help renters and homeowners keep up with housing payments amid the coronavirus crisis and make more people eligible for state aid.

The newly created Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance program will provide eligible households who have fallen behind on rent or mortgage payments in recent months up to $4,000. The program also covers families with higher incomes than other state housing programs; households earning up to 80 percent of area median income — $90,650 for a family of four in Greater Boston — are eligible.

There’s growing concern about a looming wave of evictions later this year, after $600-a-week expanded federal unemployment benefits run out and the state’s eviction moratorium expires. Data from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council estimate that 120,000 households across Massachusetts could struggle to pay for housing by fall if the job market doesn’t significantly improve. Already, nearly 30 percent of renters in the state have missed all or part of a month’s payment, according to a recent survey by MassInc Polling.

The extended unemployment benefits passed by Congress end on July 31. The eviction ban in Massachusetts expires either 45 days after Baker lifts the state of emergency, or on Aug. 18, whichever comes first.

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On Wednesday, two House lawmakers filed a bill that would extend the eviction moratorium by 12 months and freeze rents, while also setting aside funds to help small landlords if tenants can’t pay rent. Housing advocates, too, have begun lobbying Baker to extend the moratorium, which the governor can do on his own. Baker has made no comment on the issue.

But he has boosted rental funding, adding $5 million in March to a program that helps lower-income renters, and included housing programs in a $275 million coronavirus recovery bill he unveiled last week. The $20 million announced Tuesday, which will be administered by 11 regional housing agencies around the state, will be funded by money Massachusetts has received from the federal government for coronavirus relief.

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Tim Logan can be reached at timothy.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.