Avoiding an eviction crisis
Congress has supplied ample resources to the states — about $47 billion — to pay back rent and utility bills and keep tenants from facing eviction. The problem is that Congress left it up to states to stand up this program from scratch and it has taken some longer than others.
The federal order prohibiting evictions expired at the end of July. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June that the program could continue until the July 31 deadline, but Justice Brett Kavanugh indicated any future extension would have to come from Congress, not the president. President Biden has urged Congress to extend the moratorium another month.
Given the two situations — rental assistance programs that are not fully in place and the end of the eviction moratorium — it is possible the nation could see a spike in evictions and in homelessness, even though funds have been approved to avoid that very outcome. The situation is made worse by the reality that COVID-19 infections are on the rise due to the delta variant.
Ideally, Congress should extend the eviction moratorium − three months makes more sense − putting states on notice that they have to get rental assistance programs in full swing by then. But any extended ban against evictions needs a concrete sunset date. Landlords need relief. They say some tenants have taken unfair advantage, refusing to pay rent when they can afford it, though that is the exception.
In Connecticut the situation is not as dire. The state's rental-assistance program — UniteCT — is accelerating assistance, with $46 million disbursed since the program began in April, $6.4 million just last week. July’s disbursement of $22.6 million equaled the first three months combined, reports The Connecticut Mirror, with about 5,500 of 26,800 applications processed.
Gov. Ned Lamont has ordered that no eviction can be approved until a landlord shows evidence of exploring, with the tenant, a UniteCT application. This was a good move by the governor. Other states should consider adopting the same stance, particularly important if Congress does not act on an extension, a strong possibility given Republican opposition.
Connecticut’s share of the rental aid is about $236 million.
Tenants can apply for relief and check eligibility at https://portal.ct.gov/DOH/DOH/Programs/UniteCT or, in this region, by calling the TVCCA at 860-889-1365 or the New London Homeless Hospitality Center at 860-439-1573.
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