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Rent Still a Concern for Many Struggling Economically, But Some Relief Possibly on the Way

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

The Virginia Supreme Court halted evictions Monday while state leaders work on a rent-relief program.

Meanwhile, new data from the Legal Aid Justice Center shows just how tenuous the situation is for many families struggling with the ongoing health and economic crisis.

The state's Supreme Court amended its most-recent emergency order related to the COVID-19 pandemic to include the eviction order. The order says the court halted evictions at the request of Governor Ralph Northam in an effort to give state leaders time to implement a rent-relief program.

Meanwhile, for people struggling to make ends meet, the economic crisis due to COVID-19 is a devastating blow. And many of them have been wondering if they’re going to be able to pay the rent.

“This is going to be a tidal wave of evictions,” says Elaine Poon at the Legal Aid Justice Center, a group that recently issued a report showing that almost half of low income people — that’s people who earn $25,000 a year or less — they're probably not going to be able to pay the rent next month.

“They’re also the people who may not have savings as a result of frankly structural racism, a long history of our country’s policies that cause a specific subset, communities of color, not to be able to accumulate wealth,” says Poon.

The report also showed that almost half of Hispanic families in Virginia who rent will probably not be able to pay the rent next month.

Kim Bobo at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy says that’s because of restrictions in aid from the federal government that don’t just limit money to undocumented immigrants. In many cases the restrictions cut off money to the entire household, which means many Hispanic families are being left behind. 

“This is really unusual in that it didn’t just exclude an individual," she explains. "It excluded the entire family. So you have so many mixed-status families who got excluded from the CARES Act and the support.”

**Editor's note: this story has been updated to included the eviction order from the Virginia Supreme Court.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.
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