The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is doubling the size of its eviction protection program, designed to assist tenants trying to stay in their homes.
The Associated Press reports the $20 million HUD grant will not provide any kind of direct cash relief to tenants. Instead, the grant money will be used for legal services and representation for families facing eviction. The money will be distributed through the Eviction Protection Grant Program to 11 nonprofit organizations including government agencies with grants ranging from $1 million to $2.4 million.
The program was launched by HUD last year as 22 million jobs in the U.S. were lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning millions of Americans were unable to make or afford their rent payments.
HUD Secretary Marica Fudge said the agency needs to and will keep working to help Americans through the COVID-19 pandemic which isn’t over.
“The American people have been resilient in the face of historic challenges as we continue to confront the impacts of COVID-19,” Fudge said in a statement. “We need to keep doing all that we can to help people maintain quality housing. We know that access to legal services and eviction diversion programs works. It helps people avoid evictions and protects tenants’ rights. Legal services also help landlords access available resources to address rent arrears. We are proud to expand the Eviction Protection Grant Program so that more families have access to eviction protection services.”
Fudge added the funding can also be used to help landlords access emergency rental assistance and will generally help reduce caseloads in eviction courts across the country. According to the Gothamist, there is a devastating shortage of eviction lawyers in New York City and across the country that is forcing people to attend housing court without a lawyer.
The grant program is expected to particularly help people of color who are disproportionately represented among those evicted, as well as tenants who aren’t proficient in English and those with disabilities.