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There's been a 500% increase in calls to an eviction hotline in Virginia

Virginia Poverty Law Center runs an eviction help-line and since last summer there’s been a 500% increase in the number of folks reaching out for help. In September they had so many calls they had to temporarily stop taking new cases.

Last January, The Virginia Poverty law Center got about 90 calls into their eviction hotline. By May that number was 550. And by August, more than 13-hundred. Phil Storey, who runs the service, says the rapid increase started last Spring.

“And the reason why is because there were protections in place, legal protections for tenants who were just behind on rent and potentially facing eviction,” Storey explained in a recent interview that those protections had ended. The most important being a federal program funded during the pandemic to provide rent relief to landlords and tenants.

The billion dollar program is now drying up and evictions restarting. Storey says a lot of calls have come from people who thought they had qualified for rent relief but are still waiting for the funds to come through.

Add to that rent increases and it’s been a perfect storm. Storey says folks who were barely making ends meet before the pandemic hit are now struggling even more.

“A billion dollars is a lot of money but it doesn’t last forever and so the rent relief program stopped accepting new applications after May 15th and so the funds were drying up at the same time as the landlords didn’t have to try to use those funds so that sort of combined for just a big increase,” he said.

The Virginia Poverty Law Center is now able to take on new clients, and can connect people with other local legal aid.

Self help resources are available at evictionhelpline.org

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

Mallory Noe-Payne is a Radio IQ reporter based in Richmond.