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Jones urges administration to enforce coronavirus crisis housing eviction bans

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and Montana Sen. Jon Tester led senators in writing a letter to President Donald Trump’s administration, asking that housing eviction bans be enforced during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to put many Americans in danger of falling behind on monthly rent payments, the senators are urging the administration to enforce bans on housing evictions for the duration of the crisis.

The letter was sent to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria. The senators estimate that 32 percent of renters were unable to make payments this month.

Even though there is a ban on evictions for renters in federally-subsidized housing, some tenants have still been unlawfully evicted during the pandemic.

Jones’ office said that Alabama renters face significant housing cost burdens as a share of their incomes. Alabama ranks third in the country for the share of renter households earning less than $15,000 per year, making it uniquely vulnerable to instability in the job market and the economy.

Compounding these challenges, Alabama also faces a shortage in affordable housing and minimal tenant protections.

“As you know, the CARES Act created temporary protections from eviction for millions of tenants who live in properties with federally-backed mortgages or that receive certain types of federal housing assistance,” Jones and his colleagues wrote. “During a time when having a roof over your head is essential for Americans’ abilities to stay safe and healthy, Congress insisted that these safeguards be put in place to help those at risk of losing their housing in the midst of the public health and economic crises. These protections, as well as all tenant protections available under federal, state, and local law, must be honored and enforced.”

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Several states, including Alabama, have allowed landlords to move forward with eviction proceedings, despite the mandated temporary protections for renters established under the CARES Act. Jones and his colleagues are urging the administration to help renters understand what protections they have under the CARES Act, and to take proactive steps to ensure compliance with rules that prohibit evictions during the crisis.

“During this pandemic, when it is dangerous for individuals to even be required to appear in a court room, it is troubling that some renters have been unlawfully removed from their homes in violation of the clear protections of the CARES Act,” the senators wrote. “As evictions continue to rise, more must be done to ensure these protections are adhered to and any violations are immediately addressed, otherwise the repercussions will be severely felt by millions of the most vulnerable Americans, including elderly and low-income renters and many essential workers.”

The coronavirus crisis has now dragged into its fifth month and no end appears in sight. At least 62,879 Americans were diagnosed with coronavirus just on Monday. 1,967,859 Americans are presently known to be infected and another 1,849,949 Americans have recovered from a coronavirus infection.

At least 143,834 Americans have already died from COVID-19, including 1,257 Alabamians.

Alabama is presently under a statewide “safer-at-home” order in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The governor is urging every citizen to stay in their homes whenever possible. Anytime that a citizen may be within six feet of persons outside their household, they are ordered to wear a mask or cloth face covering.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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