“It’s devastating,” Safiya Kitwana, a single mom of two in DeKalb County, Georgia, told NPR. Kitwana, like millions across the country, is now facing homelessness after the eviction moratorium ended over the weekend.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered the moratorium last year to reduce COVID-19 transmission amid stay at home orders, now that the ban is lifted, local counties can put tenants out on the street.
“A marshal coming to your door,” Kitwana told NPR. “I’ve seen it happen where they just throw your stuff out in the parking lot.”
A decision by the Supreme Court essentially prevented the CDC from extending the moratorium any further, and Congress didn’t have enough votes from elected officials to extend the order either.
Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri camped outside the Capitol, calling on her colleagues to do something for Americans who fell behind on rent, many of whom became jobless in the pandemic.
According to NPR, Congress distributed nearly $50 billion to states to help tenants get caught up on rent, but only a small portion of that money has made it to those in need. Local county officials across the country are worried, though, that the funds won’t be enough to help all who need it.
In DeKalb, where Kitwana lives, a county judge instituted a two month eviction ban to shield tenants from being unhoused, for now.
“This is a godsend, really, for tenants,” Michael Thurmond, president of DeKalb County said. The county also agreed to cover 100% of back rent for tenants after initially only offering 60% and landlords pushing back.
“It’s a huge relief,” Kitwana said. “I just didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Some states, including New Jersey, New York, and California put their own eviction ban in place, but most states don’t have one. Housing rights advocates also noted the racial disparities that will be seen in mass evictions if tenants aren't protected.
Online portals set up by state and county officials have been overwhelmed and even hacked, causing delays in getting financial assistance to tenants at risk of being unhoused.
NPR reported that even some landlord groups have called on state and county leaders to do more to get the process rolling to avoid evictions and putting people out.