By Peg Richards
On Sept. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took bold and unprecedented action by issuing an order to halt most evictions for nonpayment of rent through the end of the year to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
This action will help to ensure millions of eligible renters nationwide – and countless Idaho renters – will have the opportunity to remain stably housed for the next three months.
However, there is still work to do to ensure our neighbors can remain in their homes.
It is critical that Congress garner bipartisan support in order to pass a robust coronavirus relief bill that includes substantial funding for emergency rental assistance.
By issuing this order to halt evictions, the CDC recognized that housing and healthcare are inextricably linked.
This intersection between housing and healthcare is well known to those of us working directly with people experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness, and the relationship between the two is more important and apparent now than ever.
We understand evictions risk lives, push families deeper into poverty, and further strain our nation’s public health system – making it more difficult to contain the virus.
The CDC order aims to address this concern by ensuring families are able to stay stably housed without facing the risk of becoming homeless or doubling up with other families.
Research has shown that both of these outcomes result in higher risks for infection for families and their communities.
Although it is a valuable first step in the right direction, the moratorium does not address the long-term needs of renters, and our lawmakers must make policies and funding decisions that ensure no one loses their home as a result of the coronavirus.
The eviction ban does not prevent evictions – it only delays them.
Even though evictions are paused for many renters until December, back-rent will still be owed once the moratorium is lifted in January.
This assistance will ensure our communities do not experience a tsunami of evictions during one of the coldest months of the year,
Leading housing organizations like the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimate that $100 billion in emergency rental assistance is needed to ensure all Americans can remain stably and safely housed.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a coronavirus relief package that included the recommended amount of rental assistance earlier this summer, but the U.S. Senate has been unable to approve a plan that meets the needs of renters impacted by the coronavirus.
It is more important than ever for Idahoans to contact their U.S. senators to urge them to approve funding to meet the urgent needs of Americans experiencing housing instability and homelessness.
The CDC’s order halting evictions is significant, but it does not sufficiently address the long-term needs of Idaho’s renters as income uncertainty and instability remain widespread.
The moratorium provides lawmakers with a window to provide much needed relief for tenants, and that time should not be wasted.
It is critical that Idaho’s congressional delegation supports rental assistance in the next coronavirus relief package.
Peg Richards graduated from Boise State University as the first student to produce a graduate thesis project in the Communication Department when she built a nonprofit to assist the impoverished in 2002. Richards has served as president of the Boise City/Ada County Homeless Coalition since 2016. This article first appeared in the Idaho Press.