Leaders in the Legislature say they are considering a way to speed up the backlogged process of distributing hundreds of millions of dollars of federal rental assistance, but no bill has been introduced with 10 weeks left until a government eviction moratorium lifts.
Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) said lawmakers are working on a plan with the Supreme Court and the counties to make sure that rental assistance funds reach those in need, but did not offer details about what that would look like.
“We're trying to figure out the best way to help facilitate getting that money to pay for those tenants that have been unable to pay, get back to those landlords and help keep those tenants in their properties,” Cannizzaro told The Nevada Independent.
So what could tenants and landlords experience during the three-month extension of the federal moratorium, which lifts June 30 (an additional layer of state protections were extended through May)? The Indy explains.
Landlords can prepare to evict, but need to inform tenants of resources
Gov. Steve Sisolak said the recent two-month extension will be the last, but added that now, when homeowners send notices to tenants during this period, they must also include information on the assistance programs available and how to access them.
In March, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a new extension to the federal moratorium until June 30 – one month longer than Nevada's – Sisolak indicated that no one should be evicted while the federal moratorium is in place.
“They'll still be protected, they won't become homeless, won't lose their housing,” Sisolak said. “We want an opportunity for after the 60 days expires, some of the landlords can go in and start to file papers … It will get our process started while the clock runs off the CDC moratorium.”
State leaders are fast-tracking urgent applications
Shannon Chambers, president of Home Means Nevada, a state-affiliated nonprofit that develops assistance programs for homeowners, added during a late-March press conference that while the moratorium “does buy some more time, we have to be effective and efficient in how we process that time, and how we work through these issues.”
“Over the next 60 days, Home Means Nevada will be working with the other partners … to develop a plan that will prioritize rental assistance applications,” Chambers said.
Tenants should update their rental assistance applications
During the March 30 press conference, Kevin Schiller, assistant county manager for Clark County, emphasized the importance of submitting and updating the documentation necessary as there are new requirements to receive assistance from the Clark County CARES Housing Assistance Program (CHAP). These include proof of COVID-19-related financial impact such as reduction of income or loss of employment, a W-9 form from the landlord and, if applicable, a response to any eviction notices received while the application is being processed.
“Documentation is a critical component of this… If you're in that queue and you update those within the next 30 days, you maintain your spot within that,” Schiller said. “If you are applying as a new applicant, you need to get on there as soon as possible to get that documentation and that completed application.”
Schiller added that in order to receive assistance from CHAP, applicants must live in Clark County — and undocumented people are still eligible.
From July through March, the county has helped more than 22,500 households with rent or mortgage assistance through federally funded grant programs, according to county officials. There were still about 12,000 households with pending applications in December when the initial assistance program ran out of money. Now, about 23,500 applications are pending. With the most recent aid package, CHAP is expecting $161 million to serve up to 40,000 households.
“We really want to get these dollars out over the next 60 days, and prioritize those needs,” Schiller said, adding that the county is also working on rehousing those who end up losing their home. “If you apply for assistance and you weren't eligible, we still have you in our queue to work on rehousing you and getting you into an apartment or into a residence so that you are not homeless.”
Tenants should file a response if they get an eviction notice
Christopher Storke, an attorney for the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, spoke with The Nevada Independent about what the moratorium means for Nevadans and what tenants need to know to protect themselves from an eviction, among other points.
Storke says he knows tenants wonder “What now? How is this going to protect us? What do we have to do moving forward?” He urges tenants to file a response to any eviction notices they receive to avoid being locked out through a rapid eviction process in Nevada called “summary eviction.”
“If you fail to file that tenant answer then unfortunately, the court will review based upon the documents and if they deem them to be sufficient, then they will issue the summary eviction order,” he said.
Advocates hope extension is enough time to distribute aid
With the CHAP program backlogged, Storke said the extension gives time for tenants’ applications to be processed and get the aid to pay landlords while keeping renters in their homes.
“The protection in place is basically 60 days where they can't be evicted through a termination of tenancy eviction notification or for a non-payment notice, so long as it was within the terms that the CHAP program had paid,” Storke said.
The extension of the CDC and state moratoriums allows the state to use the new federal funds that were approved in the COVID aid bill Congress approved in March to go toward rental assistance. Storke said that if tenant protections were to expire, then the state would be left with money that was intended for landlords and tenants that would not be distributed appropriately.
“The intent was, at least from the perspective of all the advocacy that has occurred on behalf of housing advocates, is the simple fact that more time was needed to be able to distribute these funds,” Storke said. “At the end of the day, what would be the point if you got all this money for the state to be able to provide for rental assistance but then you end up with a boatload of individuals and tenants who are evicted during that time frame?”
More than just an extension
Storke said he was very pleased when he heard of the extensions to the moratoriums to continue providing protection for the tenants, otherwise it would have disrupted progress toward more of a “normal life” prior to the pandemic.
“We're turning a corner here in the state of Nevada – the economy is picking up, people are going back to work, people are receiving the vaccine,” Storke said. “It's great to be able to have that extension in place to be able to provide an opportunity for Nevada and the citizens to be able to move forward and provide us with a chance at recovery.”
Tenants can reach out for help
Depending on their location in the state, tenants and landlords are able to get more information and assistance from the following entities: