For Tenants Nationwide, a Scramble to Pay Months of Rent or Face Eviction

For Tenants Nationwide, a Scramble to Pay Months of Rent or Face Eviction
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For Tenants Nationwide, a Scramble to Pay Months of Rent or Face Eviction

For Tenants Nationwide, a Scramble to Pay Months of Rent or Face Eviction

For nearly a year, a federal moratorium on evictions allowed tenants who suffered economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic to stay in their homes.

Now, the scheduled expiration of the moratorium at midnight on Saturday has left tenants across the country packing their bags and facing an uncertain future as they search for housing options. Already homeless shelters have added beds in anticipation of an influx of people in need of a safe place to live.

The Census Bureau’s most recent Household Pulse Survey, which captures the impacts of the pandemic, found that 3.6 million people believed it was somewhat or very likely that they would be evicted within the next two month.

The moratorium was established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September to keep people in their homes and away from crowded places where the coronavirus could easily spread. The protections were extended several times but also had a catch: rent payments were delayed, not forgiven.

Now, many tenants fear that the bill will fall due when they have no way of paying it.

“The government cannot imagine the harm it is doing to us,” Migreldi Lara said in Spanish of the impending end of the deportation ban. She and her three children face eviction from their apartment in Reading, Pa. After losing her job and losing thousands of dollars in rent.

The moratorium protected troubled tenants from eviction, whether they live in public or private housing, as long as they could prove they had lost income during the pandemic, attempted to obtain rent assistance, and makes an effort to pay rent as much as possible.

For many tenants and advocates, the expiration is particularly painful as only a small fraction of the rent aid approved by Congress has been distributed. Many small homeowners are also eagerly awaiting funds as the bills pile up.

Some cities and states, including California and New York, have their own moratoriums on evictions that will outlast the federal moratorium, but many tenants will have to rely on funds for assistance. Until June, however, local governments had distributed just $ 3 billion of the nearly $ 47 billion in rent assistance Congress had made available, according to the Treasury Department. Heavy documentation requirements prevented many people from getting the money they needed to avoid eviction.

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“The most frustrating and infuriating thing about facing this eviction cliff,” said Diane Yentel, chair of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “is knowing that there are abundant resources to help tenants. .

Here are some of their stories.

Reading, Dad.

Months after Migreldi Lara moved from the Virgin Islands to Reading, Pennsylvania, the state reported its first two cases of the coronavirus. A week later, she lost her job in a beauty salon.

With little savings after the move, she quickly fell behind on her $ 750-per-month rent for the three-bedroom apartment.

Before the pandemic, she dreamed of saving up to buy a small house with a garden and saving money to enroll her children, aged 6, 8 and 11, in college. But now she doesn’t even know what they will do next month.

Unemployment benefits helped Lara catch up until the additional $ 600 a week approved by Congress expires in July 2020. When she does not have enough money to buy gasoline for moving her car, she sometimes leaves it parked illegally, accumulating tickets.

Its owner, Roberto Jimenez, tried to be patient. He even took the microphone alongside Ms Lara – both have been active in immigrant justice organizations – at a rally to call on the governor to protect tenants.

“She has three children, how can we throw someone like that out on the street?” Mr. Jimenez asked the crowd, waving to Ms. Lara and her children.

Eleven months later, Ms. Lara is still waiting for help.

“If the federal government doesn’t help us, we’re going to collapse,” Ms. Lara said.

On two occasions, she applied for federal rent assistance through the county, but both times, she was told that her application lacked documentation. She applied for a third time in May but did not receive a response.

“My daughter, my son ask me, ‘What’s going to happen? Where are we going to sleep? ‘ ”Ms. Lara said.

She was able to repay part of the rent after getting a new job at an iron factory, but she still owes Mr. Jimenez over $ 6,000 in rent and late fees.

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Over the months, Mr. Jimenez’s patience weakened. He said if Ms Lara didn’t catch up on her rent quickly, he should evict her.

Morgantown, W.Va.

LaChrisa Winston had until Saturday to vacate her apartment in Morgantown, W.Va., before facing an eviction.

For months, she managed to pay the $ 675 rent on her one-bedroom apartment after quitting her job due to health issues in February. She borrowed money from family and friends and emptied her 401 (k). Sometimes she was late, but she said she always paid.

Ms Winston was denied unemployment benefits because the state agency said she voluntarily quit her job. But that didn’t seem like a choice to her: Worried about Covid-19 exposures in the cell phone store where she was a salesperson, Ms Winston, who suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, decided he was not careful to continue working.

She applied for rent assistance in July and her online application still says she’s on hold.

“My credit cards have been maximized, everything I can think of to survive has been completely maximized,” Ms. Winston said. “You are sort of faced with, what should I do?” Do I pay for health care or put food on the table? “

In mid-July, she received a notice from her property manager that the company would begin the eviction process if she did not pay her rent balance of $ 750 within four days.

It took him five.

Ms Winston has spent the past week juggling her new job as a hospital planner and studying business administration classes with time to donate possessions she can’t take with her and search for affordable apartments.

She knows that it will be even more difficult to find an apartment if she cannot get out in time to escape an eviction case. But as time passed, she felt that she was running out of options.

“I’m just sort of waiting for the advice,” Ms. Winston said. “Because I know it happens. “

Springdale, Arch.

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The federal eviction ban protected Kori Ceola for some time: she was allowed to stay in her one-bedroom apartment after signing a copy of the moratorium in March and presenting it to her landlord.

Finding a way to pay the rent she still owed was more difficult.

As soon as she got up on the first day of every month this spring, Ms Ceola called two agencies in the Springdale, Ark. Area that distributed federal rent assistance. Each time, he was told that their funds were already depleted.

“There isn’t enough money for everyone for enough people,” she said.

Her unemployment claim was also refused because she forgot to attach a document. By the time she downloaded it, the temporary federal program for which she was eligible as an independent contractor had ended.

Ms Ceola, a home nurse, contracted a mild case of coronavirus from a patient in January after most of her work had already dried up. Then came 14 days of unpaid isolation in his apartment and the recovery of his car, making it too difficult to get back to his clients.

In June, she was over $ 3,000 behind on her rent, unable to pay the $ 525 she owed monthly. She decided to leave to avoid deportation.

A week later, as she and her two service dogs slept in a friend’s apartment, the moratorium was extended again. She had already donated most of her possessions. “I think I cried for two days in a row,” Ms. Ceola said.

She hopped from couch to couch until this week, when she moved into a room in a Motel 6 with three other people who lost their homes during the pandemic.

Ms Ceola fears that if she can’t find enough money to pay the rent arrears, the eviction will hit her case, making it difficult to get a new apartment. But what she wants more than anything, she says, is to get back to work.

She preferred to treat patients at home because she had experienced bad conditions in some nursing homes.

“I am so happy to help someone stay at home,” Ms. Ceola said.

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