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Without New Stimulus, Thousands of Utah Renters Face Eviction

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Thousands of Utah renters who lost jobs or suffered cutbacks because of COVID-19 face possible eviction beginning in the first week of January.

A combination of eviction moratoriums and CARES Act funding has kept most people in their homes up to now, but those benefits are set to expire Dec. 31, and as Congress negotiates a new stimulus bill, it's unclear whether it will contain additional rental assistance.

With COVID-19 vaccinations not widely available for months, said Tara Rollins, executive director of the Utah Housing Coalition, it will be hard to avoid a mass eviction.

"I think the state hasn't taken this as serious as it could," she said, "in doing maybe a deeper dive into the numbers and what is going to happen when people are starting to be evicted, and there's no place for them to go."

According to the investment data firm STOUT, more than $120 million in back rent has accrued in Utah since the pandemic began. If the moratoriums are allowed to expire, up to 40,000 eviction cases could be filed beginning in January.

Rollins said the economic impact of the pandemic has fallen disproportionately on low-income workers, mostly in front-line service jobs that don't allow them to work from home.

"A lot of people continue to be unemployed," she said, "as well as, I would say, underemployed -- meaning that they're making less money, having less hours at work -- so therefore, they're struggling."

Rollins encouraged renters and landlords to continue to communicate with each other about where things stand, saying it's harder to work out a solution when people aren't talking. She's optimistic that a new stimulus agreement will be reached.

"I'm hoping that we do receive another package from D.C.," she said. "I think that Sen. (Mitt) Romney is on the forefront of that conversation, and I think he understands how communities are, and how unstable they are right now."

If a renter is facing imminent eviction, she said, financial and legal resources still are available. Information is online at utahhousing.orgor by calling the Utah 211 help line.