Reps. Bowman and Ocasio-Cortez continue their fight against evictions amid COVID-19
Reps. Bowman and AOC are calling for Emergency Rental Assistance reform.
Back in July of last year, Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) teamed-up against housing injustice during COVID-19, calling for rent protections through at least the end of 2020 as the virus continued to affect their communities at disproportionate rates.
The congress members set-up virtual workshops as a direct response to the countless Black and Latinx communities that have been left vulnerable to evictions as the result of an unexpected health crisis and the increased burden of rent debt.
They called for a universal rent moratorium through the ned of 2020, to cancel the accumulating rental debt nationwide, and to increase tenant protections for undocumented residents.
All across the country, cities and municipalities have had to navigate their individual housing crises spurred by the COVID-19 outbreak. AOC argued that mass evictions and hunger could be prevented if a new spending bill were passed.
In October, she projected that 30-40 million people were at risk of eviction because of lax moves to proceed on eviction moratoriums.
Americans across the country continued to be evicted from their homes through the fall and winter, despite weak federal moratoriums put in place during the end of his presidency.
While there were federal moratoriums nationwide, the scattered deadlines of local moratoriums — on the state-level — across the nation added to the disparities in COVID-19 deaths within Black and Latinx households.
Even now with a new administration at the helm, President Joe Biden’s eviction moratorium extension only prolongs flimsy protections, and it does little in effectively shielding millions from losing their homes.
On his first day as president, Biden signed an executive order to extend a Trump-era freeze on nationwide evictions through the end of March.
It’s an effort that offers short-term relief for the millions at risk of evictions, but it falls short of providing long-term and enforceable protections to mitigate homelessness, especially since evictions for non-payment of rent have been occurring despite the current moratorium.
Depending on the state-level moratoriums in place, courts across the nation will continue to enforce evictions if it is within their power.
As it stands, the process to apply for Emergency rental assistance requires excessive documentation, causing delays that put applicants at increased risk of eviction.
On Jan. 28, Reps. Bowman and Ocasio-Cortez, along with 52 supporters, sent a letter to the treasury and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), asking the Secretaries to immediately repeal Trump era guidance on the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program.
What does this mean?
Before Trump left office, he implemented new processing requirements to apply to the program, which, according to the representatives, “places burdensome documentation requirements on working-class families,” thereby increasing processing times, and increasing delays on eligible applicants.
All the while, the extra processing time would subject at-risk families to an increased probability of eviction.
That’s why Reps. Bowman and AOC are requesting that the Trump-era requirements be replaced with self-certification systems that would work to expedite the receipt of funds.
“Some states have required eviction notices, past due utility bills and in some cases, have gone as far as requiring households prove future financial stability in order to receive aid,” the reps wrote in their letter.
“The existing guidance promulgated by the former administration not only builds on the aforementioned requirements but would make it so that tenants would have to produce an additional burdensome amount of documentation and wait a lengthy period of 21 days in order to receive aid in the event their landlord is uncooperative.” they continue.
In many instances, 21 days is too long to wait.
The letter also calls for setting aside the majority of ERA funds for “extremely low-income households” and to enact additional renter protections.
Jointly, Bowman and AOC are calling for guidance that would also prevent landlords from taking advantage of the delayed process — from being able to evict tenants without first attempting to obtain rental assistance.