As the end to the eviction moratorium looms, tenants fear help will be too late

Posted at 1:50 PM, Jul 19, 2021

CHICAGO — The federal moratorium on evictions was put in place to protect Americans financially strapped by the pandemic. The CDC says it was extended for the last time, meaning the eviction moratorium is expiring at the end of this month. However, millions are still waiting for assistance and could face eviction when the clock runs out.

“The clock is ticking,” said Sharon, a renter who says she’s worried.

Like many tenants, she feels with the temporary halt on evictions set to expire July 31, she’s running on empty.

“It felt like medieval times,” she said. “There's an ax just lowering over your head and your head is about to get cut off. That's exactly how it felt.”

Sharon, who did not want her last name used out of fear of retribution from her landlord, says she’s been out of work since the beginning of the outbreak and unable to pay her rent.

“I actually am facing eviction, and it’s not an easy thing,” said Sharon.

She’s not alone.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, at the end of March, 6.4 million renter households were behind on their rent.

As of July 5, according to a Census Bureau survey, 3.6 million people said they would likely have to leave their homes in the next two months due to eviction.

“That federal eviction moratorium has been a lifeline for those six million renters. It has been and is the last remaining protection keeping them stably housed during this global pandemic until emergency rental assistance can reach them,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

She says despite over $46 billion in emergency rental assistance allocated to help tenants with past due rent, the money hasn't reached most of them yet.

“There are states and cities who are working abysmally slowly to get this emergency rental assistance out. As of the end of May, there were 22 states who had spent zero of their emergency rental assistance funds yet,” said Yentel.

Most eviction filings have been delayed in the courts until the moratorium expires. But once it lapses, Yentel says there could be a surge in filings and hearings.

“There's a cliff at the end of the federal election moratorium and unless states and cities do more and do it faster and better to get that emergency rental assistance to the tenants who need it, then we will see a historic wave of evictions and housing instability this summer and fall,” said Yentel.

Sharon did apply for local renter’s assistance but it’s still in process. She says she knows she’s running out of time.

“I am in the mode of trying to figure out what it is that I'm going to do. You know, start packing,” she said. “That’s all I can do.”

It’s all she can do until her stay runs out.