Thousands face eviction as moratorium expiration looms

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Credit: WINK News.

Thousands of Southwest Floridians will be at risk of losing their homes when the eviction moratorium expires Saturday.

It was created last year to help renters who have fallen behind during the pandemic and has been extended three times. President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress worked furiously on Friday to get it extended once more but ultimately failed. An attempt to simply approve an extension by consent, without a formal vote, was objected to by House Republicans. The Senate may try again Saturday.

Biden called on local governments to “take all possible steps” to immediately disburse the funds or evictions could start as soon as Monday.

“There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic,” Biden said in a statement.

“Every state and local government must get these funds out to ensure we prevent every eviction we can,” he said.

The Bumpus family is among those on a ramp to homelessness. They haven’t paid rent in five months since Jeremy was laid off. When the moratorium ends, they worry eviction is next.

“I’m from California, I’m not from here, so I don’t have any family. I don’t have a backup plan, no plan B. I don’t have family and friends,” Jeremy said.

Fifteen million Americans are in the same boat, and more than 13,000 households in Southwest Florida are behind on rent, according to National Equity Atlas.

Lee County has the most, with more than 7,000 households behind on rent. Glades County has the least, with less than a hundred.

“The eviction moratorium, while flawed, has kept tens of millions of renters who otherwise would have lost their homes during the pandemic stay fully housed,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Renters aren’t the only ones at risk. COVID-19 has taken a toll on landlords, too. The federal ban on foreclosures, which protects homeowners like Tina Brown with government-backed loans, also expires Saturday.

“Dealing with the possibility of losing your property, it’s terrifying,” she said.

Meanwhile, local food banks and shelters are bracing for the moratorium’s end. St. Matthew’s House expects to see more people come in needing food and shelter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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