Activists, elected officials highlight continued need for housing assistance as eviction moratorium ends

Local News

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Millions of Americans could be forced from their homes, as the hold on evictions ends Saturday.

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Housing advocates like Katherine Howell say most of these issues could’ve been prevented if funds from COVID-19 relief measures reached tenants and property owners sooner.

“They don’t have a safety net anymore,” she said.

The safety net for millions of Americans, created for those facing financial challenges because of the pandemic, has ended after Congress failed to pass a bill to extend the measure.

“This assistance was providing the bare minimum and people still weren’t able to pay all of their bills with the assistance that they were getting,” she said.

10 On Your Side reached out to a number of Hampton Roads’ local congressional delegation.

Democratic Congresswoman Elaine Luria said Virginians don’t deserve to be without a home while unused assistance remains available. 

“I urge Governor Northam and state lawmakers to swiftly distribute federal dollars to minimize the harm to people across the commonwealth and prevent unnecessary eviction,” she said in a statement.

Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott agrees and his office adds that he’s supportive of extending the moratorium and urges states to do everything possible to speed up distribution of the $46.5 billion for renters and landlords, already allocated from the American Rescue Plan.

Republican Congressman Rob Wittman says this crisis could’ve been prevented earlier if Democrats in the House acted sooner.

In a statement to 10 On Your Side, he said House Republicans attempted to avert this crisis by proposing a bill that would’ve fixed issues with the emergency rental assistance programs and kept Americans in their homes.

Local activists say the pandemic isn’t completely to blame and it only made existing housing problems worse.

“We have a city government and housing authorities that have had waiting lists that are three years long,” said Howell. “So the pandemic is definitely exacerbating the issue that has already existed.”

For those seeking rental assistance, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development is offering financial aid through the Rent Relief Program.

Learn more about the program, and how to apply for aid, here.

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