By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – A federal freeze on most evictions passed last year is expected to expire on July 31, after the Biden administration extended the date by one month. The moratorium, put in place by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, was the only tool allowing millions of tenants to stay in their homes. Many of them lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and were months behind on their rent.
The owners successfully challenged the order in court, arguing that they also had bills to pay. They pointed out that tenants could access more than $ 45 billion in federal funds set aside to help pay rent and related expenses.
Tenant advocates say the cash flow has been slow and it takes longer to distribute it and reimburse landlords. Without an extension, they feared an upsurge in evictions and lawsuits aimed at evicting tenants behind on their rents.
As of June 7, about 3.2 million people in the United States have said they are at risk of deportation within the next two months, according to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. The survey measures the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic every two weeks using online responses from a representative sample of American households.
Here is the situation in Alaska:
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF STATE DELETION MORATORIES?
The Alaska Legislature last year put in place moratoria on disconnection of utilities or evictions due to non-payment of rent, which expired last year. However, there is still the CDC’s moratorium on evictions.
WHAT IS BEING DONE TO HELP PEOPLE TARGETING EVICTIONS?
Alaska Housing Finance Corp., a public corporation, administers a program that uses approximately $ 240 million in federal recovery assistance to provide up to one year of rental or utility payment assistance to those affected by pandemic that meet the eligibility conditions. Under the program, rents and utilities in arrears since March 13, 2020 are to be paid first, with the remaining funds earmarked for future aid. Funding is expected to be available at least until September, the company says. The program allowed tenants who had no rent arrears to apply.
The application period ended in March and the first payments were approved at the end of that month, said Stacy Barnes, a spokesperson for the company. The company said it had paid out about $ 51.8 million to homeowners and utilities until June 18.
About 25,450 applications met income eligibility criteria, which is about 28% of rental units in Alaska, according to the company.
The Municipality of Anchorage and 15 regional housing authorities have partnered with the company on the program, Barnes said.
Barnes said the program provides “an important bridge for tenant families who have and can still battle the pandemic as our economy recovers.”
She said it “also reassures homeowners who depend on income and keeps the housing market healthy.” More than 8,000 homeowners, many of whom own multi-family homes like duplexes, are participating, Barnes said.
About 3,600 applicants for the program said they had received eviction notices, she said via email.
HOW DO THE COURTS HANDLE EXVICTION HEARINGS?
In a four-month period starting in February, 360 deportation cases were filed in Alaska courts, according to information provided by the state’s court system. Most of them were in Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska.
The court system only provided numbers and not the reasons for the deportation process.
The Court System, on a frequently asked questions page, provides a link to the form that tenants seek temporary eviction protection under the soon-to-expire CDC order. The site notes that tenants are still responsible for the rent due under their lease contracts.
If an eviction case started before a tenant provided their landlord with a declaration form and then a form was submitted to the landlord or the court, judges were required to stop the case until at the end of the CDC order, depending on the court system.
SHOULD EVICTIONS CREATE AN INCREASE IN HOMELESSNESS?
It is not immediately clear.
Brian Wilson, executive director of the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, said via email that there were concerns about the problem as it is already difficult to meet the needs of people “who are currently at risk or literally at risk. homelessness situation. If there is a wave of evictions, there is no feasible way to have the resources ”to prevent families and individuals from falling into homelessness.
A US census survey of around 10,175 Alaskans, released earlier this month, showed that around 3,820 respondents feared deportation in the next two months.
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