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CDC halts evictions one more month, agencies get more time to get rental money moving

Posted at 9:17 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-25 00:17:40-04

The federal moratorium on evictions due to non-payment was extended by one month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday.

Originally scheduled to expire on June 30, housing advocates lobbied the Biden administration to extend the deadline to give municipalities more time to distribute federal coronavirus rental relief funds.

Agencies tasked with administering the program in Arizona certainly need the time.

Wildfire, a non-profit agency that was hired by the City of Phoenix to handle its online applications, had to stop accepting them due to high demand according to a message on its website.

Prior to closing the online application program Wildfire had received 8,756 applications and served 797 households.

Renters in Phoenix are now being referred to the Phoenix Human Services Department which only takes applications by phone and in-person.

As of June 17, the department set 3705 appointments and helped 823 households with rent and utilities.

Phoenix reported dispersing more than $12 million of its $51 million in emergency rental assistance funds.

In Mesa, the second-most populous city in the Valley, 4,608 households have applied for emergency assistance. 2,289 have been paid and 763 applications are pending. The remaining applications are duplicates, ineligible or incomplete according to Maribel Flores with the city. The program has about $3 million left to spend.

Maricopa County handles emergency rental assistance applications for cities other than Phoenix, Glendale, Gilbert, Chandler, and Mesa. As of June 23 has received 2,936 applications. 1,271 have been approved for payments and 890 are under review. $8,813,797 has been approved out of the $46 million the county received in March.

The Arizona Department of Economic Security is accepting applications for counties outside of Maricopa and Pima. Spokesperson Tasya Peterson said they have received 3700 applications for rental help. 2000 have been approved and 800 need more documentation from either the landlord or the tenant. She said the remaining amount are ineligible or are landlord-only applications.

The Arizona Mulitihousing Association (AMA), which represents landlords said the extension the CDC is no longer about public health but creating housing policy.

"The federal government has forced private rental housing owners to shoulder the burden of this pandemic, essentially turning private property into public housing overnight -- without compensating property owners, many of whom have not been paid rent for nearly a year and a half," AMA CEO Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus said in a statement.

The association estimates that since January only 5 percent of $880 million in relief funds that have come into Arizona have made it to landlords.

"Before the pandemic, Arizona faced an affordable housing crisis. Sadly, the CDC moratorium and the financial harm it has done to property owners has dramatically exacerbated this crisis," she added.