On Saturday, the federal moratorium on evictions for those who were behind with their rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The congress work like this against the clock this friday to try to extend it, after the White House said the Supreme Court prevents it from expanding it. Millions of families could be left homeless if you don’t.
More than six million households in the United States were behind in paying their rent, according to March figures from the Department of Housing. Many were Latino families. As of July 5, some 3.6 million people were facing eviction, according to the Census Household Pulse Survey.
One of the ravages of the pandemic has been the rise in unemployment and how it has put millions of people’s homes at risk. Fears that evictions would accelerate the spread of the coronavirus prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a federal moratorium to stop them in September 2020. It expired and was extended several times later, until one “last time” that ends on July 31, the White House warned.
“We hope to see mass evictions,” Anne Kat Alexander, researcher and project director at the Eviction Lab, a research laboratory at Princeton University, told Telemundo News. That means “conservatively, tens of thousands of cases, of people who were told to leave their homes, which are activated now at the same time.
“It’s something that worries us a lot,” said Alexander, whose work focuses on eviction policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, “because we know that even if tenants were able to claim CDC protection, (which sometimes they could not they could), there will be a lot of variation in whether the owners will continue that process or will throw people out on the street ”.
Although the protection ends at the federal level, there are states that do offer some protections, while others offer few or none.
Some have their own moratoriums, as in California where it ends on September 30, in New York and New Jersey August 31 (depending on income), in Hawaii on August 6, and in Maryland, on August 15, among others.
What worries both the White House and the experts is that of the states that offer fewer protections It is also where cases are growing the most, such as Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida and Texas, according to data from the CDC and Johns Hopkins University.
These last two states have a significant Latino population (Florida, 26% of the population, Texas 40%, according to Census data) for whom the situation of eviction is usually more common and who many times they do not know their legal rights, or they are more vulnerable because they do not know the language or have an irregular migratory situation.
“Florida, Texas and Missouri, three states with the lowest vaccination rates, accounted for the 40% of all cases nationwide “, Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said at a news conference last Thursday. “For the second week in a row, one in five cases occurs in Florida. And within communities, these cases are mainly among unvaccinated people. “
The end of the moratoriums, gasoline for the fire of the pandemic.
Research conducted this year by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) determined that the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths increased dramatically in states that lifted moratoriums eviction since the beginning of the pandemic.
The study, published this week in the Journal of Epidemiology, found that coronavirus cases doubled and deaths quintupled in the four months after the moratoriums expired.
According to a statement from UCLA, during the summer of 2020, there were 433,700 more cases of COVID-19 and 10,700 more deaths in the United States than there would have been if the moratoriums had continued. In total, in September 2020 there were 6.3 million cases of COVID-19, and about 193,000 people died from the disease, according to the CDC.
“The evictions may have accelerated the transmission of COVID-19 by decrease people’s ability to socially distance themselves “, Frederick Zimmerman, a professor of health policy and management at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health and lead author of the study, said in the statement.
Alexander, from the Eviction Lab, agrees: “The end of the moratorium has us very concerned about the increase in cases,” he said, “the moratoriums were put in place for a reason (to decrease cases) and that reason has not gone away.”
Latinos and blacks, the most affected
Alexander points to a recent Eviction Lab study showing that where there are higher eviction rates there are also lower vaccination rates. They used vaccination data from the Arizona Department of Health, the City of Philadelphia, the Indiana Department of Health, the New York City Department of Health, and the Texas Department of Health to build it.
Latinos and blacks are the most affected, because in the neighborhoods where they live, according to studies, it is precisely where there are more evictions and fewer vaccinated.
“Black tenants routinely face a higher risk of being evicted, a pattern that has continued throughout the pandemic,” says the Eviction Lab study.
“Black people and latinx are also much less likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The racial gap in vaccination is narrowing, but black and Latino people still face challenges in accessing vaccines. […] The zip codes with the most evictions in each city tend to be in communities of color, while most neighborhoods […] with high vaccination rates and low eviction rates, they tend to be majority white. “
This trend was observed in cities as disparate as New York, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Houston, and Dallas.
But it also varies widely across the country where eviction laws are tougher or favor landlords. In some places, it is so easy and cheap to start eviction proceedings against a tenant that “Eviction courts are used by landlords as a rent collection system, even when they don’t even want to get the tenant out of the house, ”says Alexander.
In South Carolina, for example, filing an eviction petition costs just $ 45, and in Baltimore, Maryland, just $ 25.
“This is not how this system of cuts is supposed to be used”, Alexander explains. This was how many landlords operated before the pandemic, and now that these eviction orders are reactivated many “will go back to their usual way of operating, ignoring how truly destructive it is to a tenant.”
Latino evictions, the tip of the iceberg
The proportion of applications filed against Latino tenants during the pandemic has increased in both cities with large Latino populations, such as Houston and Fort Worth, Texas, and small ones, such as Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio, according to data from the Eviction Lab.
In Cleveland, 6% of tenants are Latino, but Latino tenants received 13% of all eviction requests between 2012 and 2016. As of March 15, 15% of the requests have been against Latinos.
But the problem for Latinos may be even greater than is known. The data that exist are from formal eviction petitions that are filed in the courts, but there are several times the number of informal evictions, which varies greatly depending on the area
Alexander explains that according to a study they conducted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for every formal eviction there were two informal ones. “If that is true in the rest of the country, there are going to be a huge number of invisible evictions. The logical conclusion is that for Latinos the number is even higher ”.
This may be because they tend not to want to go through the court system, because of the language or their immigration status. “It may be because they don’t want it on their public record, they don’t want their next landlord to see it,” Alexander explained. “The person may not want to fight it because they do not have the resources to go through the process, even when they have papers,” he added.
There is rent assistance, but it does not reach those who need it
Congress allocated about $ 47 billion in aid, who had to go to tenants with late rent payments. It is federal money that in some cases is given to the states, or to the counties, or to the cities for each to distribute to the tenants who request it.
But as of June, states and local governments had only distributed about $ 3 billion out of the first $ 25 billion tranche. Some states like New York have given out practically nothing, while several have only approved a few million dollars.
To learn more about how to access these aids, learn more about the eviction process, how to get a lawyer to help you defend yourself in eviction court, see our guide to questions, answers and tools.