News Story (NATIONAL, Nebraska)
November 25, 2020
READ THE FULL STORY HERE
Tags: CDC Eviction Moratorium, COVID-19, Housing, Housing: Eviction
Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid of Nebraska
The moratorium, which went into effect in September, lets tenants file a declaration if they make less than $99,000, can’t pay rent because they’ve lost work, have made efforts to make partial rent payments if possible, and would likely end up homeless or living in close quarters with others if they’re evicted. When tenants sign, it’s supposed to protect them in court in an eviction case.
It hasn’t worked perfectly. One problem is that many tenants still don’t know that it exists. “It doesn’t help if the tenant doesn’t know and can’t raise it,” says Caitlin Cedfeldt, an attorney with Legal Aid of Nebraska. “And we see that happen a lot.” In some areas, even when tenants have filed the declaration, they’re still getting evicted. “One of the issues with the moratorium is that your protections under it varied depending on what zip code you lived in, and what courthouse you appeared in. Housing courts in some jurisdictions honored the moratorium, and the moment a tenant triggered their rights by presenting a declaration, the judge dismissed the case or froze the case, at that spot,” says Benfer. “And in others, the courts didn’t even acknowledge the CDC authority over them. And so this meant that only some tenants were able to really leverage the rights.”
Biden can learn from what didn’t work to design a better solution, Benfer says. One piece of the solution should be more direct financial support, since the moratorium doesn’t provide any rental assistance. Low-income workers, less likely to have savings, have also been disproportionately hit economically. “The renter population was among the hardest hit from the economic recession and job and wage loss,” she says. “The moratorium itself, while critical, is delaying the rent due. So renters across the country have been accruing, in some cases, months of back rent, and it will be impossible for them to repay that debt to the property owner. And we can’t expect the property owners to shoulder the heavy weight of the economic recession by requiring that they cover the lost rent.”