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Monday, August 31, 2020

Update: Eviction Ban Could Be Extended As Thousands in St. Louis Wait on Housing Aid

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2020 at 10:24 AM

click to enlarge Judge Rex Burlison could extend an ban on evictions in St. Louis. - DOYLE MURPHY
  • Judge Rex Burlison could extend an ban on evictions in St. Louis.

With less than a day to go before St. Louis’ moratorium on tenant evictions is set to expire, St. Louis Circuit Court Chief Judge Rex Burlison is expected to issue an order extending the eviction ban for another month.

Stephen Conway, chief of staff for Mayor Lyda Krewson, said late Monday afternoon that he anticipated Burlison to grant another month-long extension, though Conway has not yet seen the court order making that a reality.

“We’re expecting that outcome,” Conway says. “I’m waiting for an official confirmation.”

Meanwhile, some of the service providers tasked with distributing $5.2 million in federal CARES Act housing assistance dollars are still processing most of the 3,000 aid applications submitted to the city by residents facing financial hardship.

In early August, Burlison cited the time that financially strapped city residents need to apply for the federal housing assistance as a major reason for extending the eviction moratorium to September 1.

Catholic Charities of St. Louis began processing applications for $1.75 million in CARES funding for rental and mortgage assistance about ten days ago ago, according to Tyrone Ford, the agency’s service integration director.

Ford says the delays his agency faced stemmed from the time needed to set up a platform for processing the applications the agency received and then vetting them.

“We’re already processing people,” Ford says. “It’s been challenging.”

Ford said his agency has processed fewer than 100 of the housing applications it has received from the city.

“We expect anywhere between, let’s say, 500 and 700 clients to be served at the end of this thing,” Ford says.

Lee Camp, an ArchCity Defenders attorney who specializes in helping tenants stay in their homes, says he’s already heard from many of the 14 service providers who received the $5.2 million in CARES Act money that they still have not gotten it to intended recipients.

“We’re already concerned that the financial assistance has not made its way down to the streets,” says Camp, who says he regularly takes part in conference calls with service providers who have cited delays in getting money to those in need of housing aid.

The CARES Act money came to St. Louis as part of a multi-trillion emergency aid package that Congress passed to deal with the nation’s high unemployment and the economic collapse caused by business and government shutdowns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has so far has killed nearly 190,000 Americans and infected almost 6 million more.

Camp notes the platform for processing the housing applications did not launch until August 19.

“And when you have 3,000, 4,000 applications that you have to start processing,” Camp says, “there’s absolutely no way, (no matter) how much people power you have behind it, you’re not going to process that many applications.”

Conway notes the administrative hurdles that attach to federal grants.

“Every single person not only had to be contacted, then we had to contact the landlords,” Conway says. “We have to document they met the requirements the federal government established.”

Jacob Long, Krewson’s spokesman, adds the city prioritized residents already facing eviction because of pandemic-related economic problems.

So far, things are working out, according to Long.

“The fact remains, nobody’s getting evicted,” Long says. “We’re pleased that the court is expected to extend the moratorium, and the city of St. Louis remains the only jurisdiction in the entire region of three million people doing anything about rental and mortgage assistance.”

Tenants and homeowners who live in St. Louis who can show financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic may apply for three months’ rent or mortgage payment help by completing an application online. If Internet access is not available, call (314) 657-1650 to request an application by mail.

Editor's note: This story was updated after publication to include more information and new developments.
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