As Congress debates a new pandemic relief bill two measures benefitting renters are set to expire.
Over the weekend a federal moratorium on evictions expired and the extra $600 in unemployment benefits is coming to a close by the end of the week, unless Congress acts to extend it.
“So, with all of these things kind of colliding at once we’re anticipating seeing a large increase in the number of evictions,” said June Hiatt, organizer for Utah Renters Together. “But also a large increase in the number of landlords who are going to be raising rent to make up for lost profit.”
The CARES Act protected about 70% of tenants from eviction in Utah. Between April 1 to June 30 the number of evictions were roughly the same as last year, according to state data analyzed by Utah Renters Together. But now, jobless renters are in a tough spot said Hiatt.
“You’re having to make some really hard choices between paying rent, buying food and you don’t have a lot of options of ways to recoup that lost income,” said Hiatt.
Right before the state’s eviction moratorium ended on May 15, Utah established a rental assistance program for those who didn’t qualify for unemployment benefits.
“The state didn’t have the most effective plan for rolling out this program. And so not a lot of people are aware that it exists to begin with,” said Hiatt.
So far, 209 Utahns have received benefits through the program and another roughly 555 applications are still in progress, according to state data obtained by Utah Renters Together.
“Where we are at now, with COVID is far worse than where we were when the government put these protections in place,” said Hiatt.
Hiatt says that renter protections need to be expanded now.