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As COVID-19 Rent Protections End, Some Utahns May Be Facing Evictions

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Groups advocating on behalf of Utah tenants say those who've fallen behind on their rent due to the COVID-19 crisis could soon run out of options.

The COVID-19 crisis has led to thousands of Utahns losing their jobs or having their hours cut, but most have been able to stay in their homes, thanks to an eviction moratorium and assistance programs put in place by the state. 

"The first wave is going to be in the next couple of weeks, and then the next wave will be when the other moratoriums are lifted, as well as when we no longer will be receiving unemployment and that extra $600," said Tara Rollins. 

Tara Rollins is with the Utah Housing Coalition, a group that says the next two weeks could be “crunch time” for people trying to catch up on their unpaid rent.

The financial website "Self" finds that, statewide, a Utah household has to work 46-hours a week to afford the average monthly rent of just over one-thousand dollars for a two-bedroom apartment. The Salt Lake City metro average rent is 11-hundred-76 dollars a month. The national average is 12-hundred dollars.

Rollins said Utah lawmakers recently moved the starting date for a rental assistance program to July 1st that could help some renters and homeowners, but it could take days or weeks to get the program started. In the meantime, she says, the number of coronavirus cases is rising and that could stall Utah’s economic recovery.

"Our numbers are going up," said Rollins. "So, we're kind of holding our breath to see if they're going to shut things down again. I know they don't want to do that, but people aren't wearing their masks."

Rollins said her group has worked with the Utah Legislature to use state and federal money to help people stay in their homes as long as possible.

"Our legislators are watching, they’re hearing, they’re listening on this. And housing is very important to making sure our economy gets going again," said Rollins. 

She said the Utah Housing Coalition has teamed up with Utah Community Action to offer an online version of "The Tenant Toolkit," which covers renters' rights and other information. She says more resources are available through the Utah 2-1-1 helpline