The Virginia Poverty Law Center is calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to issue an executive action to temporarily freeze evictions again in the state.
As most of Virginia begins the first phase of reopening, courts are starting to resume hearing non-essential cases. This means that hundreds of eviction cases are being picked up, raising concern among housing advocates.
On Wednesday, the VPLC sent a letter to Northam, urging the governor to stop evictions until September 1 or until the federal eviction moratorium in the CARES Act ends. According to the VPLC, the federal freeze on evictions protects less than half the people in the state.
“Many of the nearly 400,000 Virginians who are presently unemployed worked in low-wage jobs in the accommodation, food service or retail industries and have little or no savings,” the VPLC wrote in the letter.
The non-profit also noted that, according to University of California Berkeley, over 40% of Virginia renter households working in COVID-19 affected industries are rent burdened, only making $30,000 annually.
According to the VPLC, “the worst is yet to come” in terms of evictions, especially since many are still unemployed.
Last month, Northam signed a law that allowed courts to delay evictions for a maximum of two months if the tenant and landlord go to court and the tenant could prove that they were unemployed due to COVID-19.
VPLC Housing Director Christine Marra said many people are not showing up to court due to the coronavirus, leading the judges to move forward with an eviction.
“Those folks that did not appear last Monday in court could be evicted sometime this week. So, that is the problem,” Marra said in an interview with WAVY 10.
Marra also said mass evictions over the next couple of months could increase the spread of the virus.
“We are worried about the impact of people not being able to access shelter, especially for people who might be positive for the coronavirus, but asymptomatic,” she said to WAVY 10,
“For people that are tenants, the immediate public health crisis is only phase one of the crisis. Phase two is going to be dealing with the fact that people do not have money to pay the rent and they are about to be evicted. It’s pretty complicated.”
Several elected officials, like state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy and state Sen. Jennifer Boysko, all Democrats, have signed the letter in support of the changes.