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February 10, 2022

Pressley, DeLauro & Bush Unveil Bill to Provide Crucial Lifeline for Families Facing Eviction

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WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), and Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) unveiled the Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program (HELP) Act, critical legislation to provide much-needed assistance to those facing eviction amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation, which follows the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium, would prohibit credit reporting of evictions and rent and utility debt, fund legal representation for those at risk of eviction, crack down on illegal evictions, and more.

At a hearing last week, Rep. Pressley discussed how these protections would help prevent evictions and address the homelessness crisis, which disproportionately hurts Black renters, and in particular, Black women.

“Every eviction is a form of policy violence. This pandemic has had a devastating emotional and financial impact on our families, and Congress must act with urgency to protect them from eviction and keep them safely housed,” Congresswoman Pressley said. “By passing this crucial legislation, we will shrink the gap in legal representation so more families have resources to fight eviction, will no longer have to worry about the stain of eviction, past rent, and utility debts on their credit reports, and will be better equipped to avoid homelessness throughout this pandemic and beyond. With millions of vulnerable renters at risk of being unhoused, including Black, brown and low-income folks, we must affirm housing as a human right.”

“Evictions are a fast process, and with only ten percent of tenants having legal representation, renters are often set up to fail,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “As a child, I will never forget coming home to see my family’s belongings on the street—we had been evicted. I know firsthand that evictions do not occur in a vacuum. These traumatic events often have collateral consequences, such as job loss, poor educational outcomes, poor physical and mental health, and lack of access to housing in the future. The HELP Act provides those at risk of eviction access to legal counsel, creates a database to track evictions, and prohibits credit reporting of evictions and rent and utility debt. We must work to end the vicious cycle of poverty and ensure that people have the resources and support they need for stable housing.”

“Evictions can be a death sentence for the millions of Americans forced onto our streets each year,” said Congresswoman Cori Bush. “When Black renters, particularly Black women, are receiving eviction notices at nearly twice the rate of white renters, when almost half of all Black renters don’t know if they’ll be able to make next month’s rent, lawmakers have no choice but to step in and provide life-saving solutions. I’m proud to partner with Congresswomen Pressley and DeLauro to introduce the Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program Act. By taking steps to strengthen protections for renters through legal aid and expansive data collection, this legislation will address the systemic housing and eviction crisis.”

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:

  • Prohibit credit reporting of evictions and rent and utility debt;
  • Require covered landlords to inform their tenants of their rights and responsibilities and to
  • disclose reasons for an eviction in writing to crack down on illegal evictions;
  • Authorize $10 billion in Emergency Solution Grants (ESG) to fund legal counsel for those facing or at risk of eviction; and
  • Direct 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.

The HELP Act is supported by NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Coalition for Economic Survival, Boston Tenant Coalition, National Low Income Housing Coalition, Human Service News and Information CCTV Program (Cambridge, MA), City Life / Vida Urbana, A. Philip Randolph Square Neighborhood Alliance, NYC HDFC, National Housing Law Project, Belnel Family Neighborhood Association, IBA-Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion, Sarah Zettek, New Jersey Tenants Organization, National Women’s Law Center, National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, Community Action Agency of Somerville, Inc., RESULTS, and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

“Even before the pandemic, millions of the lowest-income and most marginalized households were just one financial shock away from falling behind on their rent, losing their homes, and, in worst cases, experiencing homelessness. After two years of this pandemic and its negative impact on the economy, many of these same households are even more precariously housed,” stated Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “The long-standing eviction crisis – which predominantly harms Black women – underscores the need for both urgent action and long-term solutions, including the ‘Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program Act,’ introduced by Representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), and Cori Bush (D-MO),” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO, National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The threat of eviction has brought great anxiety to millions of tenants nationwide. The least we can do is ensure that renters know their rights and don’t have to fear becoming homeless because their credit situation will provide additional challenges to securing a new roof over their head.” – Coalition of Economic Survival.

“The A. Philip Randolph Square Neighborhood Alliance supports Congresswoman Pressley, a champion of housing, whose important bill will bring much needed resources and protections to vulnerable tenants at a critical stage in our nation’s history,” said Gregory Christopher Baggett, A. Philip Randolph Square Neighborhood Alliance.

“The Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program (HELP) Act would dramatically improve access to the rental housing market for poor Americans, especially Black and Latinx households. The bill provides significant funding for eviction defense and would prohibit reporting evictions or rent-related debt. An eviction report is a stain that follows low-income renters for years after they experience hardship, and the HELP Act would help millions of American families out of the cycle of housing instability. NHLP applauds representatives Pressley, DeLauro, and Bush as they put forward real solutions to our evictions crisis.” – National Housing Law Project.

“Evictions tend to impact the most vulnerable within communities. For individuals and families facing evictions, the HELP Act would provide additional layers of protections and resources families need at such a vulnerable time,” said Helena Tonge, Belnel Family Neighborhood Association.

“As a former eviction defense attorney, I saw firsthand how disruptive and traumatizing evictions are to families struggling to make ends meet. In jurisdictions without strong tenant protections, without eviction moratoria, evictions can have devastating consequences on people’s credit, on their ability to secure future housing or their ability to stay stably housed. This bill will ensure tenants are not unfairly and illegally evicted and will mitigate the harsh consequences of an eviction record, at a critical time when many households are still vulnerable to the pandemic’s harmful effects,” said Michael Santos, RESULTS.

“The HELP Act is the common sense legislation our nation must have in order to address and arrest the rise in evictions and growing housing insecurity,” said Gregory Baggett, NYC HDFC.

Congresswoman Pressley, alongside Chairwoman DeLauro and then-Senator Kamala Harris, originally introduced the HELP Act during the summer of 2020 following the expiration of the limited federal eviction moratorium.

In September, Rep. Pressley joined Rep. Bush and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in introducing the Keeping Renters Safe Act of 2021 to enact an urgently needed nationwide eviction moratorium. 

Over the summer, with the previous eviction moratorium set to expire, Rep. Pressley stood in solidarity with Congresswoman Cori Bush on the steps of the US Capitol to urge the Administration to act unilaterally to extend this protection—efforts that resulted in a new CDC eviction moratorium

On July 31, ahead of the expiration of the previous CDC eviction moratorium, Reps. Pressley, Bush, Gomez and their progressive colleagues sent a letter renewing their calls for President Biden and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to extend the federal eviction moratorium and prevent the historic and deadly wave of evictions that would occur if the government failed to do so. 

On July 30, Rep. Pressley joined House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) in introducing the Protecting Renters from Evictions Act of 2021, legislation to extend the eviction moratorium through the end of the year. 

In June, Rep. Pressley, along with Reps. Gomez and Bush, led over 40 of their colleagues on a letter urging President Biden and CDC Director Walensky to extend and strengthen the moratorium for the duration of the public health crisis. 

From the onset of the pandemic, Congresswoman Pressley has fought tirelessly to provide robust housing protections for families in Massachusetts and across the nation. 

  • On March 18, 2020, Reps. Pressley, Katie Porter (D-CA) and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) wrote to HUD calling for a moratorium on evicting renters during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • On March 19, 2020, Rep. Pressley, along with progressive lawmakers and organizations, introduced the Housing is a Human Right Act to authorize more than $200 billion in federal spending over 10 years for crucial housing infrastructure and reduce homelessness.
  • On March 23, 2020, Reps. Pressley and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) introduced the Public Health Emergency Shelter Act of 2020, legislation to provide critical funding to states and local governments responding to the needs of families and individuals experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 crisis. This legislation was included and passed through the HEROES Act and H.R. 7301, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020.
  • On April 10, 2020, Rep. Pressley urged Congressional leadership to prioritize recurring monthly cash payments to those most at-risk during the COVID-19 crisis. This funding would allow people to cover all their bills, including rent.
  • On April 17, 2020, Reps. Pressley, Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and colleagues introduce the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, a bill to institute a nationwide cancellation of rents and home mortgage payments through the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • On May 11, 2020, Reps. Tlaib, and Joe Neguse (D-CO) urge House and Senate leadership to include $11.5 billion in funding for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) in the next relief package to aid the nation’s homeless population who are experiencing heightened vulnerability during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On July 24, 2020, in a Financial Services Committee hearing, Rep. 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.
  • On July 28, 2020, Rep. Pressley, Rep. DeLauro and Sen. Harris introduced the Housing Emergencies Lifeline Program (HELP) Act to provide much-needed, layered assistance to those facing eviction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On May 18, 2021, Reps. Bush and Pressley sent a letter to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), calling on the CDC to strengthen and extend the federal moratorium on evictions, ensuring families can remain safely in their homes for the duration of the COVID-19 global health emergency.
  • In June 2021, Congresswoman Pressley, along with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), re-introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, a bill to institute a nationwide cancellation of rents and home mortgage payments through the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.