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Federal Pandemic Aid: Advocates Push for Eviction Protections

Lawmakers are about to return to Richmond for a special session to determine how to spend more than four billion dollars of federal stimulus money. Some advocates want them to take action to protect people against evictions.

The federal protection against evictions runs out at the end of this month, and that could cause a huge wave of people being kicked out of their homes because they can't pay rent.

Kim Bobo at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy says lawmakers can spend $30 million to make sure all those tenants have legal representation during court hearings.

"There's just a huge difference in outcome if you have legal representation," Bobo explains. "And so one of the best things we can do to make sure that people are allowed to stay in their home is to one, get this money out the door for rental and mortgage assistance, and have them have access to legal services."

Now, there’s one thing lawmakers can do that won't cost any money at all. Christie Marra at the Virginia Poverty Law Center says the General Assembly can take action during the special session to require landlords seek rent relief money previously set aside before evicting anyone.

"We have only spent a fraction of the money. I think we got $1 billion, and we've spent like not even $300 million yet," Marra says. "And so any policy that goes into place that helps this money get spent actually saves Virginia money because we're not going to have to give that money back to the federal government."

Lawmakers are scheduled to gavel into session at the beginning of August to spend federal stimulus money and appoint new appeals court judges.

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.