WASHINGTON- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday evening a temporary halt to residential evictions through the end of the year to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The ban comes after increased unemployment pay and the eviction moratorium went away with the expiration of the CARES Act July 24. The Aspen Institute, a humanitarian think tank, projected as many as 30–40 million people could be at risk of eviction without protection.
Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority Executive Director Peggy Rice does not see the eviction freeze as a fix, instead something that could just extend the issue. According to the CDC order, renters who cannot pay now will still have to pay eventually in addition to fees, penalties, or interest for not paying rent or making a housing payment on time as required by their tenancy.
Serving Scioto County and parts of Lawrence County, Rice said more of the PMHA’s residents have not paid their rent than typical. While offering assistance through repayment services and renegotiation of monthly rates for those living in public or Section 8 housing, many do not return calls or answer the door and delinquency has become a growing problem.
“With those people, there’s nothing we can do if we can’t have that conversation,” said Rice. “We have some people in dire situations and I’m not sure what we’ll be able to do to help soften that load when it comes.”
She projects by the end of 2020, some residents will go 10 months without paying their rent instead of the five months so far which she said would be devastating to many of the 3,300 people housed by PCHA.
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown supported the reinstitution of the federal moratorium, but saw the measure enacted by the now-expired CARES Act to be a small step. Two-thirds of Americans living in apartments did not benefit from the prohibition and it did not address what tenants and landlords should do following the end of the eviction stoppage, he said.
The end of the CARES Act also meant increased unemployment benefits, $600 a week, went away. Brown encouraged the passing of the Heroes Act, as a way to stop evictions through the stipend which could go to pay rent and other necessities. The alternative, not having the increased unemployment or moratorium on evictions, Brown said would be disastrous.
“To do that, in the midst of a pandemic, where people have to move in crowded homeless shelters or sleep in their cousin’s basement is cruel,” said Brown. “It’s inhumane public policy and it’s really stupid in the middle of a pandemic. We’re going to see more people get sick as more people are crowded together in living spaces because they’re essentially homeless.”
Rice believed the unemployment stipend would be an additional resource for families struggling to make rent payments. How far that money would go, however, depends on families’ individual circumstances.
“The pandemic itself could devastate the family regardless of the amount of income coming in,” said Rice. “It’s just a bad time for everyone and there are no good answers.”
Following the end of a federal prohibition of evictions in July, members of the Ohio Senate called on Governor Mike DeWine to institute a ban on foreclosures and evictions for the duration of the coronavirus state of emergency. If the bill were to be stronger than the CDC order, it would supersede it.
Senators Nickie J. Antonio, D-Lakewood and Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, drafted Senate Bill 297 March 25 and sent a letter to the governor July 31. The bill would prevent evictions and foreclosures of residential and commercial buildings in all cases except when tenants are the subject of a domestic violence protection order, convicted of domestic violence or are violating a domestic violence protection order.
“Housing insecurity impacts people’s health, safety and education,” they said in their letter. “You have urged Ohioans to Stay Safe at Home—how are Ohioans to do this if they don’t have a home?”
Landlords could still file eviction paperwork during the state of emergency if the legislation passed but would not be entitled to the missing rent from that period if they give the eviction order after the end of the emergency.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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