Today, Governor Northam announced a rent relief program, where $50m from the CARES Act will be distributed to nonprofit organizations. These organizations will in turn provide money to landlords to make up the rental income that is currently being lost by tenants who are unable to pay rent. While this program is a good first step towards giving Virginians the relief they desperately need, this effort does not address that courts will resume the eviction process on June 29th, which leaves thousands of Virginians vulnerable to becoming homeless, and it is likely that many people will be evicted before the rent relief program is fully up and running.
The possibility of mass evictions in Virginia can be curtailed. We, along with the Legal Aid Justice Center and the Virginia Poverty Law Center, ask the governor to immediately use his broad emergency authority under Virginia Code 44-146.17 to prohibit evictions statewide until rent relief is fully funded and implemented. This will give tenants time to apply for rent relief and establish realistic payment plans for any unpaid balance. Additionally, this will allow landlords time to communicate with the courts and get cases dismissed with no need for any appearances from renters.
In order for the rent relief program to be successful and to truly help Virginians, this is a crucial and common sense step that will allow the most economically vulnerable to stay in their homes and stay safe during this global pandemic.