Throughout October 2023, the Access to Counsel in Evictions (ACE) Task Force, chaired by Access to Justice ED, Reena Shah, is conducting virtual Task Force meetings to discuss the progress and challenges related to the implementation of the Access to Counsel in Evictions (ACE) Program. These meetings, which are open to the public, provide a platform for key stakeholders to share insights and collaborate on the successful execution of the program. 

The ACE Task Force and ACE Programs were created by House Bill 18, which the Maryland General Assembly passed during the 2021 legislative session. House Bill 18 arose from the recognition of the substantial personal and societal costs associated with evictions, including public health concerns, long-term consequences, financial burdens on governments, and disproportionate impacts on marginalized communities.

The ACE Program directs services to provide access to counsel in eviction proceedings for income-eligible tenants throughout the state. Maryland became only the second state in the nation to offer such access. The Task Force’s charge is to study potential funding sources for the ACE Program, make recommendations to enhance the implementation of the ACE program, including policy and statutory changes, and evaluate the services provided as a result of the program. 

The ACE Task Force is composed of 15 members appointed by the Office of the Attorney General, and is mandated to submit annual reports to the Governor and the General Assembly. The 2023 report underscores the significance of the ACE Program in mitigating the adverse effects of evictions and highlights the importance of ongoing efforts, financial support, and political commitment to ensure its success in assisting vulnerable Marylanders and preventing the broader social and economic costs associated with eviction.

During the course of their work, ACE Task Force members consult various parties involved in the ACE Program’s execution. This year, the Task Force has and will hear from the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, the implementing organization for the program, as well as civil legal aid organizations that received grants from MLSC, as well as the Maryland Judiciary. The Task Force will also hear from other stakeholders who are crucially involved in implementing the Program, including the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development on their development of the Evictions Dashboard; the United Way and Civil Justice on the newly developed Coordinated Intake System; Stout, Risius, Ross on the data collection and evaluation efforts and outreach organizations who are spreading the word about the program. 

Recommendations from the Task Force have been critical to sustaining ongoing funding for the Program and pursuing policy changes that ensure successful implementation. 

You can learn more about the ACE Task Force and the upcoming meetings here