Legal Aid Gets $4 Million to Help Virginians Fight Evictions

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By Arianna Coghill
August 31, 2020

With the state’s eviction freeze set to end on Sept. 7, Gov. Northam is swooping in to help tenants facing housing insecurity.

RICHMOND-It just got easier to get legal help to fight evictions. On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that Virginia’s Legal Aid program will get $4 million. Since Virginia’s eviction moratorium ended on June 22, over 4,000 Virginia families have lost their homes in the midst of a global health crisis. And while the Virginia Supreme Court voted to extend the freeze until Sept. 7, more than 7,000 more eviction hearings are scheduled to be heard in courts over the next eight weeks. 

With the eviction freeze deadline ending in eight days, the governor is teaming up with IKEA to provide struggling tenants with extra legal help for the upcoming court hearings.  Northam announced the money will go to 20 legal aid attorneys who are helping Virginians fight eviction notices. 

“Our Commonwealth faced an eviction crisis before COVID-19 arrived in early March, and the ongoing global pandemic is making this problem even worse,” Northam said in a statement. “In an unprecedented crisis and financial uncertainty, we must be able to get relief to vulnerable populations quickly and efficiently—this additional funding will make that possible. 

What Is Virginia Legal Aid?

Legal aid attorneys play an important role in fighting evictions cases in court. According to the Legal Aid Justice Center, people only have a 34 percent chance of a successful outcome without representation. 

That chance nearly doubles to 72 percent when they have an attorney on their side. 

The $4 million comes from multiple sources. Furniture retailer IKEA will contribute a portion to the project. The group announced it will provide a $2 million donation from its U.S. Community Fund, while the state government will match the other half, in order to help the attorneys provide services to people facing housing insecurity. 

After the governor issued stay at home orders in March, IKEA closed its two Virginia retail locations in order to prevent further spread of the virus among their employees and customers.  The company has said the state’s unemployment benefits helped their workers during the closures. 

“People are the heart of our business, and these unemployment benefits helped IKEA U.S. co-workers during a difficult time,” said Javier Quinones, Retail IKEA U.S. President. “We now have a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on our business, and we’ve decided to pay it forward to support the ongoing relief efforts in our local communities.”

The rest of the money will come from a currently operating state program. Earlier this year, Northam had established the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Program, which provided an initial $50 million in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). Northam will take $2 million from the CARES Act funding and give it to the Legal Services Corporation, which oversees the nine regional Legal Aid programs and a statewide support center.

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