Coronavirus relief deal does ‘bare minimum’ to prevent mass evictions amid coronavirus pandemic

The latest federal stimulus deal would inject $25 billion into housing stability programs and extend a federal eviction ban through the end of January, a short-term solution advocates say will only “stop the bleeding” as tens of millions face homelessness nationwide amid the pandemic.
“It’s a stop-gap — it basically does the bare minimum of what needs to be done right now, which is preventing mass evictions in the dead of the pandemic winter,” said Helen Matthews of housing rights organization City Life/Vida Urbana.
The stimulus package is expected to extend the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium through the end of January. The nationwide temporary ban was slated for expiration on Dec. 31.
The federal deal is expected to provide $25 billion in emergency rental assistance — including about $500 million for Massachusetts, according to advocates. It would also extend the deadline to use relief funds set aside in the CARES Act.
That’s all in addition to boosts to unemployment and direct payments of $600 for citizens.
But Matthews warns the aid won’t go far.
“It’s a way to stop the bleeding in the short-term sense, but what we need is long-term healing from this absolutely devastating pandemic and eviction crisis,” Matthews said.
A predicted deluge of eviction filings has so far been more of a trickle. Since a statewide eviction moratorium ended on Oct. 17, landlords have filed 4,192 summary process cases in Massachusetts housing courts as of Dec. 14, the most recent date for which data is available.
But studies show finances for many households are growing more precarious. A Census pulse survey from early December revealed nearly 395,000 Massachusetts renter households have little to no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent.
The budget signed by Gov. Charlie Baker on Dec. 11 includes $504 million for housing and rental assistance programs, but legislators have punted action on bills that would provide greater protection by barring evictions for at-risk tenants.
Rep. Mike Connolly, D-Cambridge, who filed a bill that would extend an eviction moratorium for one year after the public health emergency said the Legislature “needs to do more.”
But his Guaranteed Housing Stability Act is unlikely to see action before the session ends on Dec. 31 as the Legislature confronts a full calendar, he said.
 

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