July 28, 2020
Reps. Pressley, DeLauro & Sen. Harris Unveil Bill to Provide Critical Lifeline for Families Facing Eviction Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Bill Comes With Unprecedented Eviction Tsunami Set to Fall Disproportionately on Black Renters
WASHINGTON – Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), along with Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), today unveiled the Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program (HELP) Act, critical legislation to provide much-needed assistance to those facing eviction amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation follows the expiration last week of a limited federal eviction moratorium, which will disproportionately hurt Black renters and Black women, in particular.
“Housing is a human right, and in the face of an impending eviction tsunami, we must take bold, urgent action to affirm that right and protect the millions of families facing housing instability,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “By guaranteeing legal representation for families at risk of eviction, limiting the adverse effect of eviction filings on tenants’ credit reports, and requiring more thorough data collection on the eviction crisis nationwide, this bill will help families remain safely in their homes during this pandemic and avoid evictions. Housing justice is racial and economic justice, and as workers and families across our country confront an unprecedented financial cliff, Congress must act with the urgency needed to prevent mass evictions.” “Too often in our country, poverty is criminalized,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “If the federal government does not step in quickly with additional measures to protect tenants and prevent evictions, we will surely see a wave of mass evictions across the country, unlike anything we have seen in modern history, given the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only is the federal government not prepared to support those who have been evicted, but we also do not even have a way of tracking this displacement. As a woman who was evicted from her home as a child, I know firsthand that the federal government should be tracking and preventing these traumatic events and working to limit the lifelong impacts an eviction has on credit history. Working people and their families deserve legal support fighting evictions and a safety net that can help keep them in their home, and that is exactly what the HELP Act aims to do.” “Far too many Americans are facing eviction, leaving them without a roof over their heads in the midst of a public health emergency,” said Senator Harris. “Congress must take action to give tenants resources to help them stay in their homes. I’m proud to join Representatives Pressley and DeLauro in introducing this critical legislation to ensure residents have the necessary tools they need to avoid evictions and stay in their homes.”
Today, families are up against dual economic and public health crises and critical supports have been allowed to expire. Against that backdrop, over 30% of Americans report having little to no confidence they will make next month’s rent—for Black Americans, that number goes up to 46%. It is clear, the eviction crisis is foremost a matter of racial justice.
The Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program Act would provide critical support to those facing evictions by:
- Authorizing $10 billion in Emergency Solution Grants (ESG) to fund legal counsel for those facing or at risk of eviction;
- Directing the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to establish a database of eviction information gathered from all State and local entities that receive covered housing assistance;
- Restricting credit reporting of evictions to cases where the landlord won in a final judgement or the tenant was not a minor and limit the amount of time this adverse information can remain on a credit report to one year; and
- Requiring covered landlords to inform their tenants of their rights and responsibilities.
The HELP Act is supported by The National Coalition for the Homeless, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Housing Law Project, A Way Home America, A Way Home America Founding 8, The National Law Center For Homelessness and Poverty, Homestart Inc., National Legal Aid & Defender Association, National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, and National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“Today in America, millions of renting families spend over half of their income on housing costs, with the threat of eviction always looming large,” said Matthew Desmond, award-winning author, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. “Through our work at the Eviction Lab, we now understand better than ever the scale of our nation’s eviction crisis and its devastating impact on the physical, financial, and mental health of those affected. We know that preventing evictions and keeping families housed benefits not only those directly affected, but their communities as well. I’m proud to support this bill, which will help protect working people and families across the country from the threat and long-term harm of evictions.” “Legal representation for renters during eviction proceedings is an essential guarantee of fairness, but most low-income tenants have to go to court without a lawyer. In establishing a dedicated fund to provide legal representation to renters in danger of being evicted, Representative Pressley’s Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program Act would help families and individuals avoid homelessness and loss of their housing,” stated the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Last week, in a hearing held by the House Financial Services Committee, Congresswoman Pressley discussed the unprecedented financial cliff facing millions of renters and homeowners, the economic consequences of millions losing their homes, including the ability to return to work, and why funding for legal representation is so critical.
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