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Supporting Clients Experiencing Housing Insecurity: Tips and Multilingual Materials on Housing Relief Legislation

Update: Switchboard released a blog post in November 2021 that provides updated information on Emergency Rental Assistance Programs. Click here to access that post! 

As many clients continue to experience financial hardship due to the effects of COVID-19, service providers are offering support by helping to navigate pandemic relief measures. One such measure, the Centers for Disease Control Eviction Moratorium, has been extended through March 31, 2021. It is important for staff serving refugee clients to be aware of this and other current local, state, and federal laws that may prohibit eviction or provide rental assistance, so that they can help clients understand their rights and make informed choices.

This post shares eviction prevention and rent assistance information related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including multilingual information where available.

Important Notes

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly changing and many eviction moratoriums have expiration dates. These moratoriums may or may not be renewed, so it is important to gather the most up-to-date-information from federal, state, or local government sources.
  • It is important to distinguish between an eviction moratorium and rent forgiveness. Right now, most relief efforts focus on preventing people from being evicted due to owing rent, but do not forgive the rent itself. This means that when the moratorium expires, people may owe all of their unpaid rent, and in some cases, with interest. Additional relief has been proposed, but thus far, there are few comprehensive solutions.
  • The existence of a local, state, or federal moratorium may not be enough to keep someone from getting evicted. In many cases, for a renter to utilize an eviction moratorium, they must take certain steps and fill out designated paperwork. Service providers can play an important role in assisting with this process.

Federal Legislation

Centers for Disease Control Eviction Moratorium – On September 1, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced a national eviction moratorium, applicable to virtually all tenants in the U.S., to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The order will be in effect from September 4, 2020 through March 31, 2021. The order does not replace or override stronger state or local eviction protections in place.

In short, the Moratorium prohibits residential landlords from evicting tenants who:

  • have used their best efforts to obtain government assistance for housing
  • are unable to pay their full rent due to a substantial loss of income
  • are making their best efforts to make timely partial payments of rent, and
  • would become homeless or have to move into a shared living setting if they were to be evicted.

To qualify, tenants must:

  • have earned no more than $99,000 (individuals) or $198,000 (filing joint tax return) in 2020
  • not have been required to report any income to the IRS in 2019, or
  • have received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act.

Tenants must complete a declaration under penalty of perjury that they meet the criteria listed in the Order. All adults in the household must complete the declaration. Additional FAQ may be found here.

Rental Assistance – Those renting directly from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), or from private landlords who are HUD-partners, can apply for rental assistance directly from their state HUD office. A list of state HUD offices can be found here: State Information.

Multilingual Resources
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released two multi-lingual resources. Note: the expiration date listed on the translations has yet to be updated.

National Coalition for Asian Pacific Americans Community Development (National CAPACD) has partnered with the Alliance for Housing Justice and the National Low Income Housing Coalition to translate the CDC’s national eviction moratorium into multiple languages. National CAPACD also developed a comic:

Tips on Communicating with Landlords
Adapted from Resources for Renters

If clients are struggling to pay rent or can no longer pay, assist with contacting landlords to discuss options as early as possible. Keep in mind that many landlords are experiencing financial challenges as well. Try to communicate clearly and calmly. Here are some tips:

  • Be candid about the situation. If clients are impacted by COVID-19 or other difficulties, assist them in describing how their finances have been affected.
  • Assist clients in describing how their family would be impacted by a loss of housing.
  • Consider mentioning any resources and assistance options you have already explored.
  • Ask about payment arrangements.
  • If the client wishes to move forward with the declaration required by the CDC Eviction Moratorium, assist in informing the landlord and completing the required paperwork.
  • Keep any email and text conversations and make notes of any calls or in-person conversations.

State Legislation

In addition to federal protections, each state may have its own approach to preventing evictions during the pandemic. Be sure to check your official state government website for the latest information. Other online repositories provide an easy way to do an initial search, prior to confirming via government sources: 

Local Legislation

Many local governments received federal dollars through the CARES Act, which allowed them to distribute monies to their residents impacted by the pandemic, including through rental assistance. This funding ended at the end of 2020. A second round of stimulus funding was passed by Congress at the end of December 2020 and includes 25 billion dollars for rental assistance. This funding also extended the CDC Eviction Moratorium mentioned above. Additional monies may be forthcoming in future rounds of stimulus funding.

Most of this federal funding passes to states, counties, and cities who then work with local organizations for distribution. In addition, cities and states may have their own, separate eviction moratoriums.

To learn about housing-related moratoriums or rental relief programs in your area, search your city and county government websites. If you cannot easily find this information on a local government website, do a general search with terms that include [your geographic area] plus “COVID-19 eviction moratorium” or [your geographic area] plus “COVID-19 rental assistance.”

Utility Assistance

Many utility companies have also pledged not to shut off utilities during the pandemic. To see if your local utility company has taken that pledge, search for their name on the Federal Communications Commission website.

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