A series of articles published by CT Mirror examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on single mothers. As the pressure of supporting their families, caring for children, and staying healthy has increased, single mothers have had little help. Even when supports are provided by federal, state, or local governments, applying and qualifying for those benefits is difficult and filled with seemingly impossible requirements. Women are belittled for failing to apply for food stamps, evicted for failing to apply for rental assistance, and told they are endangering their families’ health by working in the service industry. The single mothers who have sacrificed so much during the last 14 months deserve our support free of judgment. The Center’s work ensures that single mothers and families with children have access to the housing of their choice free from discrimination. Please join us.
In today’s update:
Since March 15, 2021, when UniteCT began accepting applications:
- Landlords have filed 1,322 new summary process (eviction) cases;
- Courts have issued 496 executions—once a court issues an execution order, the landlord can hire a state marshal to remove the tenant and their belongings from the unit.
Racial and ethnic disparities continue in recovery from pandemic-related economic hardship: According to the latest data from the Household Pulse Survey, 38% of Latinx renters and 24% of Black renters have slight or no confidence in their ability to pay rent next month compared to 13% of white renters.
Applying for UniteCT/advice for completing an application:
UniteCT’s emergency rental and utilities assistance is available for individuals with a household income at or below 80% of AMI who have experienced a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications must be made on-line. A list of the documents which must be included with an application can be found here. Visit https://portal.ct.gov/DOH/DOH/Programs/UniteCT to apply or call 1-844-864-8328 to get a referral to a community agency who may be able to assist tenants and landlords in applying.
The Department of Housing (DOH) has stated tenants who have housing subsidies should continue to apply and seek assistance from UniteCT. On Tuesday, May 4, DOH announced that “an eligible household that occupies a federally subsidized residential unit may receive UniteCT assistance, provided that UniteCT funds are not applied to costs that have been or will be reimbursed under any other federal assistance. If an eligible household received a monthly federal subsidy and the rent is adjusted according to changes in income, the renter household may receive UniteCT financial assistance for the tenant-owed portion of rent or utilities that is not subsidized. An analysis of income and sources of assistance will be performed in order to ensure no duplication of benefits exists.” The Center understands this to mean that everyone is eligible to apply for UniteCT. However, tenants who have federal or state subsidies may not qualify for assistance. If a tenant is told they do not qualify for assistance, they will be given the right to appeal this decision.
- Tenants denied assistance from UniteCT will receive notice with instructions on how to appeal the denial. A tenant has 14 days from the date of denial to appeal by sending an email to email@example.com stating the reason for the appeal.
- All landlords and tenants should apply for UniteCT to ensure that they receive the assistance they need to stay in their homes and have all eligible rental arrearages paid.
- DOH has stated that it will meet with landlords to convince them to accept UniteCT rental payments even if the landlord states they will not participate in the program. Email DOH at firstname.lastname@example.org if your landlord refuses to participate in the program.
- Tenants who have not received a confirmation email once their application is submitted should email: email@example.com or call 1-844-864-8328.
- Landlords who have not received a confirmation email once their application is submitted should email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-844-864-8328.
- DOH hopes to be able to contact tenants with missing pieces of their application after they have hired additional staff.
The UniteCT mobile tech bus will be in Eastern, CT next week:
UniteCT’s tech bus provides the necessary technology to apply for rental assistance. Tenants and housing providers who may not have access to the technology required to complete an application for rental assistance are encouraged to visit the bus. To learn more about the bus please contact the host agencies.
TECH BUS SCHEDULE, WEEK OF MAY 10, 2021
When: Mon, May 10, 10am – 3pm
Location: St. Mary’s Church, 70 Central Ave, Norwich, CT 06360
Contact: Jennifer Blanco, email@example.com
When: Tues, May 11, 10am – 12pm
Location: Montville Senior Center, 12 Maple Ave, Uncasville, CT 06382
Contact: Jennifer Blanco, firstname.lastname@example.org
When: Tues, May 11, 1pm – 3pm
Location: East Lyme Senior Center, 37 Society Rd. Niantic 06357
Contact: Jennifer Blanco, email@example.com
When: Wed, May 12, 10am – 3pm
Location: Jennings Elementary School, 50 Mercer St, New London, CT 06320
Contact: Jennifer Blanco, firstname.lastname@example.org
Problems encountered by UniteCT applicants:
- UniteCT guidelines and FAQs state that applicants are ineligible if the person applying is currently receiving other federal or state housing assistance such as a housing choice voucher or is living in public housing. The Center understands this to mean that everyone is eligible to apply for UniteCT. However, tenants who have federal or state subsidies may not qualify for assistance. If a tenant is told they do not qualify for assistance, they will be given the right to appeal this decision.
- Denying rental assistance to people with housing subsidies or tenants in public housing has a disparate impact on people of color. In Connecticut, 71% of people in public and subsidized housing are people of color. Making assistance available only through a subjective appeals process increases the likelihood of arbitrary and inconsistent decisions that may lead to fair housing violations.
- Because many housing authorities and subsidized housing providers will not accept tenants previously evicted from subsidized housing, tenants evicted from subsidized units because of rental arrears will lose their housing and their subsidies and be disqualified from future housing subsidies.
- Under UniteCT, tenants must have written rental agreements to be eligible. If there is no written rental agreement, the landlord and the tenant must sit down together and write one. The rental agreement must have a holdover clause in it meaning that it has to say that the tenant has the right to stay after the agreement expires. Treasury guidance states that tenants who do not have adequate documentation of the amount of the rental obligation or the terms of their rental agreement may submit a written attestation.
- UniteCt requires that an applicant must either upload a copy of the 2020 tax returns for all members of a household over 18 or two months of income verification for all household members over 18. Treasury guidance does not require income verification equal to two months.
- The attestation form on the UniteCT website cannot be used in place of paystubs or other proof of employment. This prevents people who are paid in cash from qualifying for UniteCT if their employer does not wish to provide the documentation. Treasury guidance states that if an applicant cannot provide written documentation of income, an attestation form can be used.
- Eviction filings are increasing and move outs that can be avoided are still happening because rental assistance is not getting distributed quickly or broadly.
- Tenants are in danger of losing their homes to eviction while they await a decision on their UniteCT applications.
- It has been reported to the Center that some large housing providers have stated that they will not participate in Unite CT and that certain landlord attorneys are advising their clients not to participate. DOH acknowledges that some landlords are refusing to participate because they believe their tenants have not made an effort to pay rent.
- The tenant cannot find out what information is missing from their application.
- Outreach materials on the English-language UniteCT website are currently available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Kreyol, and Polish.
- The UniteCT website contains a button to translate all information into Spanish when the site is accessed on a computer, but not when accessed by phone or tablet. The landlord and tenant FAQs on the UniteCT website cannot be translated into Spanish.
- Tenants and their landlords are having trouble completing the online-only application because of lack of reliable internet access. In addition, the UniteCT website does not provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application.
- The online application portal is not fully accessible for tools used by individuals with hearing and vision impairments. In addition, the UniteCT website does not provide reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application.
- The online application’s “Help Portal” does not translate the instructions into any language other than English.
The Pandemic has inflicted serious and lasting trauma on Connecticut’s most vulnerable populations – particularly working-class renters. Families of color are disproportionately represented among those most severely impacted and most in need of housing stability and assistance. The State must recognize the impact of this trauma by making the vital rental assistance through UniteCT as accessible as possible.
Unfortunately, complex program eligibility requirements, the voluminous required documentation, and technical challenges make it unlikely that UniteCT will successfully distribute its more than $200 million in federal rental assistance.
The Center recommends the following changes to UniteCT to ensure stability and safety for Connecticut’s families:
- Prioritize tenants for assistance if they have a summary process case filed in court;
- Conduct adequate tenant and landlord outreach;
- Provide more intake support for tenants and landlords so that they can navigate the complex UniteCT system;
- Ensure that tenants are approved and appeals granted using equity-based strategies that is not based on whether the tenants “deserve” to be helped:
- Publish data every week so that everyone can determine if the program is reaching Connecticut’s most vulnerable residents including but not limited to the demographics of who is applying and who has been approved, the geographic location of tenants and landlords;
- Permit tenants living in public and subsidized housing not only to apply but to qualify for assistance without going through the appeals process;
- The program encourages tenants to come to agreement on arrears not covered by UniteCT but also requires landlords to forgive a percentage of arrears; to make the program less confusing, remove the requirement that landlords forgive arrears and instead require those arrears to be treated as consumer debt;
- Allow tenants to use the attestation form to certify their income if they receive cash income or cannot get documentation from an employer;
- Remove the requirement that applicants upload a copy of any i.d. Treasury guidelines do not require that applicants have i.d. to apply and qualify.;
- Remove the requirement that the tenant have a written rental agreement or work with a landlord to create a rental agreement. Instead, require landlords to use an attestation form or check off list that states the monthly rental amount, amount owed, and a statement that the tenant has the right to stay in the unit;
- Automatically qualify tenants receiving TANF, General Assistance, SNAP and/or living in public or subsidized housing to apply without any additional documentation regarding income. All income information can be obtained by DOH from DSS or the public or subsidized housing provider;
- Prohibit evictions and executions for any tenant who has a pending or approved UniteCT application;
- Fix the technical problems raised above including providing reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who cannot access the UniteCT website or application;
- Notify tenants with disabilities that they have a right to reasonable accommodations when trying to fill out and complete an application.
Eviction and foreclosure moratorium status:
Connecticut’s temporary ban on evictions will be in place through May 20, 2021. This means that your landlord cannot start a new eviction case against you until May 21, 2021, with some important exceptions. Review our fact sheet on the exceptions and make sure to respond to any eviction papers you receive. More information about the eviction process is available here.
Judge in D.C. strikes down CDC moratorium, effect in Connecticut uncertain: On Wednesday, May 6, a federal court judge from the District of Columbia struck down the nationwide moratoriums on evictions. However, that ruling has been put on hold as the result of an appeal filed by the Department of Justice. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction ban will be in place through June 30, 2021 This protection is NOT automatic. It only applies to tenants who cannot pay full rent or other housing payments because they have lost income or have very expensive medical bills. To receive this protection, you must provide your landlord with a signed copy of the CDC declaration form. More information about eligibility requirements and how to complete the CDC declaration is available here.
Fannie and Freddie extend time to apply for a forbearance to June 30, 2021: The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to offer COVID-19 forbearance to qualifying multifamily property owners through June 30, 2021, subject to the continued tenant protections FHFA has imposed during the pandemic.
No foreclosure moratorium on mortgages that are not “federally-backed” or non-mortgage foreclosures: Homeowners whose mortgages are not “federally-backed” or who owe condominium fees, real estate taxes, or other real estate related taxes are not protected from foreclosure.
Right to Counsel
The Connecticut House of Representatives is likely to call H.B. 6531 An Act Concerning a Right to Counsel in Eviction Action for a vote next week. There is still time to call your legislators to help encourage the passage of this important legislation. Here is script you can use for your phone calls and emails to your State Representatives, State Senators, and general assembly leadership.
Help for tenants
Visit the Center’s website for fact sheets on the Connecticut and CDC eviction bans and available rental assistance programs. FAQs about evictions, rental assistance, and housing discrimination during the Covid-19 pandemic are also available.
The Center will continue to publish any recent news on foreclosure activity in Connecticut. For news and data previously published, please visit our website.
Help for homeowners
Foreclosure advice: The Center is holding Foreclosure Advice Virtual Sessions. Homeowners facing foreclosure can sign up for advice sessions over video or phone. These Sessions are in addition to the considerable number of videos and materials available at www.ctfairhousing.org.
VISIT OUR WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR FAIR HOUSING RIGHTS IN ENGLISH, SPANISH, MANDARIN, VIETNAMESE, FARSI, RUSSIAN, ITALIAN, KREYOL, ARABIC, KHMER, AND TAGALOG.
Outreach: To schedule trainings on COVID-19 protections for tenants, foreclosure prevention, fair housing or constituent outreach please contact Rashida Rattray, at email@example.com