After the abrupt court-ordered end of the federal eviction moratorium, federal leaders are calling upon their state and local counterparts to take immediate action to help millions of Americans stay in their homes.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, who leads the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, sent a letter last week to governors, mayors, county executives, and chief justices/state court administrators with the following bottom line: “No one should be evicted before they have the chance to apply for rental assistance, and no eviction should move forward until that application has been processed.”
The American Rescue Plan and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 collectively offer more than $45 billion for emergency rental assistance (ERA), which can be used to pay rent, utilities, and other housing costs. But the large majority of emergency rental assistance has yet to be distributed.
The trio outlined what their departments have done to prevent evictions but stressed that “we cannot address this challenge alone.”
“State and local governments play a crucial role as administrators of programs like ERA and as leaders of their own housing agencies, judiciary systems, and other components of government that are essential to keeping Americans in their homes,” they wrote. The federal leaders urged states, cities, and counties to:
- Enact state and local eviction moratoriums during the remainder of the public health emergency;
- Work with state and local courts to require landlords to apply for ERA before they commence eviction proceedings;
- Stay eviction proceedings while an ERA application is pending;
- Use ERA and American Rescue Plan State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to support the right to counsel and eviction diversion strategies; and
- Help tenants navigate the ERA application process.
In a separate letter and video on Monday, Garland reminded the legal community of their obligation to help the most vulnerable and urged them to take the following actions:
- Help applicants access rental assistance.
- Volunteer with local legal aid providers.
- Help local courts implement eviction diversion programs.
- Reach out to Laura.F.Klein@usdoj.gov, if you're a federal government attorney, to identify pro bono opportunities in housing cases and at legal aid clinics.
Read the full letter and watch the video below:
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