ADDRESSING CLIENTS’ NEEDS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
March 25, 2020
What happened on March 24, 2020:
- Federal stimulus package: The Democrats and the federal administration agreed on a $2 trillion economic stimulus package. The U.S. Senate is expected to pass the bill on Wednesday, March 25 followed by the House of Representatives quickly. You can read more about the process and what is included here. As of now, the package includes:
- $1,200 in direct payments to taxpayers with incomes up to $75,000 per year (and slowly phased out for people making between $75,000 and $99,000). Families would receive an additional $500 per child to create a safety net for those whose jobs and businesses are affected by the pandemic;
- Unemployment insurance extended by 13 weeks with four-month’s of enhanced benefits. The program includes freelancers, furloughed employees, and gig workers (such as Uber drivers);
- Federally-guaranteed loans available at community banks to small businesses that pledge not to lay off workers. The loans will be available during the emergency until June 30 and forgiven if the employer pays workers for the duration of the crisis;
- Loans for distressed companies would come from a $425 billion fund controlled by the Federal Reserve, and an additional $75 billion would be available for industry-specific loans — including to airlines and hotels;
- $100 billion for hospitals and health systems across the nation. It also includes billions more to furnish personal protective equipment and funds for health care workers, testing supplies, and new construction to house patients; and
- Increased Medicare payments to all hospitals and providers.
- People with disabilities: The Center signed onto a letter along with other Connecticut disability rights advocates that requests:
- Continuity of operations for public agencies, community organizations, health care providers (including health services provided to students with disabilities who have Individual Education Plans in schools);
- Support that ensures other essential service providers are able to perform essential functions to meet the needs of people with disabilities;
- People with disabilities receive timely and accessible information about what steps they must take to minimize the risk of infection; what actions are being taken that may affect their living arrangements; and the availability of services, caregivers, medication, and other changes critical to their personal planning and preparedness that may directly impact their daily life;
- Instructions to service providers in accessible formats to maximize their health and minimize the spread of infection;
- Communication that is effective for all audiences including ensuring that all televised public announcements are live-captioned and utilized qualified sign language interpreters;
- Websites and other digital information be accessible to people with vision, hearing, learning, intellectual and developmental, and dexterity disabilities, and to individuals who do not read print because of their disability including information delivered via assistive technology such as text-to-speech devices and Braille readers;
- All communications utilize plain language to maximize understanding;
- Information in multiple languages for people with limited English proficiency;
- Planners address how peoples with disabilities can meet their needs of daily living, including meal delivery, supplementary and alternate disability supports, and other services to peoples with disabilities. Providers of these services must have the personal protective equipment and instructions needed to minimize exposure and spread of infection;
- If people in group living facilities become infected, planners must address how to provide care for those peoples without endangering others in the facility. Planners must provide instructions for dealing with these complicated situations, explicitly addressing the rights and needs of people with disabilities;
- If Point of Distribution locations for food, personal protective equipment and medical supplies are established, planners must address how these supplies and equipment will be distributed to peoples whose ability to drive, lift, carry or whose use of public transportation is limited;
- Connecticut’s Departments of ADS, DSS, DDS, DMHAS, Education, Public Health and Housing should create a hotline for people with disabilities that seeks to provide information on services, program and funding that support the continuation of service delivery and independent living for all;
- The State provide additional funding for personal care attendants (PCAs) and that SEIU #1199 Education Fund and other PCA-related organizations support increased benefits for PCAs to provide paid sick time, family leave as well as overtime or hazard pay;
- Equal access to placement in quarantine and isolation be provided in the same settings as people without disabilities.
- CHFA serviced mortgages: CHFA has issued guidance that is consistent with state and federal moratoriums that halt all new foreclosure actions, including all foreclosure actions currently in process, and all eviction and ejectments activity for the 60 days from March 20, 2020. You can read the full guidance here.
- State public housing authorities: CHFA has directed housing authorities and housing managers in the state housing portfolio who are impacted because residents may have trouble paying rent due to COVID-19-related illness, unemployment, underemployment or hardship to contact their CHFA Asset Manager. The directive to housing authorities and housing managers is here.
- Outreach: Staff distributed a daily housing update to over 450 advocates, and the entire Connecticut General Assembly. If you want this daily update delivered to your inbox, click here.
- Outreach: State of Connecticut added the Center’s daily updates onto the resources available for Homeowners and Renters found here.
- Outreach: Trinity College’s CHER program using a network of remote students and staff helped the Center advocate for Fair Housing funding in the federal stimulus bill.
What has NOT happened:
- The majority of housing authorities in the state have not notified their tenants regarding any changes in procedures: 66% of the 49 housing authority websites reviewed have no information about their operations during the Covid-19 crisis.
- No creation of a rent bank to help tenants who have lost their jobs pay rent.
- No emergency rent controls to protect tenants who cannot pay rent or experience rent increases.
- Judgments dismissing summary process cases are not being entered.
- No announcement from the Judicial Branch that self-help evictions are not allowed now that the courts are closed.
- No moratorium on the imposition of late fees or costs when a tenant is late paying the rent.
- No moratorium on the service of notices to quit.
- No moratorium on the service or filing of summary process complaints.
- No moratorium on the imposition of late fees or costs when a homeowner is late making a mortgage payment.
- No moratorium on the cancellation of a trial payment plan when a homeowner is unable to pay due to a layoff or partial layoff.
- No directives about what should happen to people living in homeless encampments.
- The federal stimulus package and state relief package do not appear to include funding for:
- Money to pay rent or utility bills for people whose employment is affected by the Covid-19 crisis;
- Money for utility shut-off restoration once the moratorium ends and people are again faced with loss of utilities;
- Additional lawyers to represent tenants in evictions and homeowners in foreclosure filed after the current moratoriums on filing new cases is lifted;
- Housing counselors who can advise tenants and homeowners of the resources available to them to keep their homes after the current moratoriums are lifted as well as to avoid scams that may result in them losing money and their housing;
- Additional mediators for Connecticut’s Foreclosure Mediation Program to assist the homeowners who will be faced with foreclosure actions once the moratorium on filing new foreclosure cases is lifted;
- Funding for nonprofits who have shifted their priorities to serve low-income people affected by the Covid-19 crisis but do not have funding to do so.
- People continue to live in substandard conditions and cannot get assistance in moving out even though the conditions are harming them and their families.
- Many closing dates for people buying homes have been postponed or canceled because town clerk’s offices are closed or open only limited hours.
What we are learning from our clients
- Tenants have been the victim of rent gouging.
- Tenants with move-out and move-in dates have been left in limbo not knowing if they will be able to move or if they can stay in their current apartments.
- There has been an uptick in domestic violence calls as people have been told to stay at home.
- Tenants are finding it increasingly difficult to get in touch with landlords to find out where to pay rent, whether problems can be fixed, and how to request a change in a rule, policy or practice.
- People continue to face homelessness due to landlords turning them down for apartments.
- Landlords continue to issue notices to quit.
- Mortgage Servicers continue to file foreclosure complaints.
- People without legal status continue to face deportation and are unable to access services to stay in their homes.
- People who were laid off from their jobs as the result of the pandemic are moving in with parents and friends sometimes causing overcrowding or lease violations. Foreclosures of homeowners will now affect many more people.
- For a list of assistance available from the federal government, click here. This page is updated frequently so continue to check back.
- For people with disabilities, there is a list of resources here.
- Contact your mortgage company about getting a forbearance on your mortgage if you have been laid off or lost income/hours. Click here to find out more and to find out if you have a Fannie Mae mortgage or here to find out more and to find out if you have a Freddie Mac mortgage.
- Call the housing authority administering your Section 8 and ask if they will postpone a voucher termination.
- If you experience a drop in income and you live in pubic or subsidized housing, report it immediately. Ask to have your rent reduced immediately so that you do not fall behind.
- Call the Center if you think you have been the victim of housing discrimination. Telephone: 860-247-4400; toll free: 888-246-4401; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR FAIR HOUSING RIGHTS IN ENGLISH, SPANISH, MANDARIN, FARSI, RUSSIAN, ITALIAN, KREYOL, VIETNAMESE, AND ARABIC, CLICK HERE.
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