WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and 20 ACLU state affiliates sent letters to state officials across the country today urging their offices to issue or expand statewide moratoria against evictions, utility shut-offs, and commit to preventing mass evictions after the moratoria end.
Across the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has already resulted in widespread and devastating economic consequences, as the number of unemployment claims continues to climb. In the face of staggering unemployment numbers, millions of tenants face the imminent threat of losing their homes or access to utility service due to the inability to pay. The ACLU is calling for the prevention of mass evictions in the midst of this global COVID-19 public health crisis.
“As millions of people lose their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, renters are faced with the added threat of being put out of their homes or cut off from access to utilities during a global pandemic,” said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney at the ACLU. “Evictions and utility shut-offs will disproportionately harm communities of color, and particularly, women of color. All residents — regardless of their circumstances or background — should have access to safe and stable housing throughout the course of this ongoing public health crisis.”
Affiliates that sent or signed onto letters to state officials and engaged in advocacy around this issue include the ACLU of Arizona, ACLU of Arkansas, ACLU of California, ACLU of Connecticut, ACLU of Delaware, ACLU of Idaho, ACLU of Iowa, ACLU of Maryland, ACLU of Massachusetts, ACLU of Michigan, ACLU of Missouri, ACLU of Nevada, ACLU of South Carolina, ACLU of New Jersey, ACLU of North Dakota, ACLU of Ohio, ACLU of Oklahoma, ACLU of West Virginia, ACLU of Washington, and the ACLU of Wisconsin.
Some state affiliates who have sent letters have been successful in attaining protections for tenants.
In the letter, the ACLU is calling on state officials to issue or expand a comprehensive moratorium that will:
- halt every stage of the eviction process;
- continue to prevent mass evictions during and after the pandemic;
- apply to all types of tenants and lease violation;
- prohibit the collection of late fees and retaliation against tenants who assert their rights under the moratorium; and
- prohibit utility shut-offs and require restoration of previously disconnected service.
The ACLU has worked over the years to address unfair eviction screening policies, which disproportionately undermine housing opportunities for women of color and will present a barrier if mass evictions take place.