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Federal eviction moratorium extended, but some people may fall through the cracks

Posted at 5:55 PM, Dec 30, 2020

PHOENIX — When President Trump signed the pandemic relief package, it extended the moratorium on evictions through January.

Despite the extension, Tanya Ricks’ 14-year-old daughter Harmoni opened the front door on Christmas morning only to find an eviction notice laying at her feet.

“I was scared we would have nowhere else to go,” Harmoni said.

Ricks, a single mother of three teenage children, expected the notice, though not on Christmas. So when it came time for her eviction hearing on December 29, she was ready.

“I think it’s really important that people know what they need to do so they’re not surprised before it’s too late,” she said.

Ricks has been filling out applications to help with the rent for six months, ever since her hours were cut back at the call center where she works.

One form she filled out is a CDC declaration. It allows her and her family to stay in their home so long as Congress extends the eviction moratorium.

The declaration says Ricks earns less than $99,000 and makes good faith efforts to pay the rent. The reason she is unable to pay all of her rent is the result of COVID. And, if her family is evicted, they have nowhere else to go.

When the judge learned she submitted the declaration and her property manager did have a copy, her eviction was nullified. Over the nearly three hours Ricks listened in on the phone, awaiting her case, she heard many people say the same thing, “Most people didn’t know to turn the form in.”

The Maricopa County Justice Courts Facebook page has a dedicated site where you can download the CDC declaration.

At eviction hearings, Judges routinely warn about the need to fill out and submit the declarations so people can avoid eviction, but homeless advocates like Lisa Glow of Central Arizona Shelter Services says the pressure to navigate the court system and fill out paperwork online can prove too difficult for many people on the verge of losing their home.

CASS is seeing more people who have been evicted since the start of the pandemic, many of them elderly. The shelter only has room for about 600 people at its three facilities. Several thousand people currently live on the streets without shelter in Phoenix.

According to the Maricopa County Justice Courts evictions have dropped by 45% in 2020 from 2019. In large measure to the state and federal eviction protections. But time is running out for those who did not fill out the CDC declaration.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will start knocking on doors on January 4.