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Johns Hopkins public health faculty, community members lobby officials for more eviction oversight

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health faculty, students and community members penned a letter on Tuesday to state officials, including Gov. Larry Hogan, urging them to provide more resources to people who may face eviction due to the coronavirus.

The letter outlines three requests for the officials to consider including: expanding rent relief and assistance, providing free legal protection and extending the eviction ban through at least 90 days after Maryland’s state of emergency is over. In addition to the Republican governor, the letter was also addressed to House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson.

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“As students, staff, community leaders, and faculty in the fields of medicine and public health, we urge you to take action to stabilize housing in Maryland during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter said. “Housing is integral to health. Promoting housing stability will help thousands of individuals and families in Maryland stay safe and healthy during this unprecedented pandemic, while improving equity.”

The letter said that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s declaration halting evictions through December 2020 is a step in the right direction, it still isn’t enough since the CARES Act, along with federal unemployment benefits, expired at the end of July and that 300,000 Marylanders are expected to be at risk for eviction by the end of the year.

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“The CDC moratorium is set to expire at the end of 2020, but renters may need protection well into 2021 as the trajectory of the pandemic is still uncertain,” the letter said. “Marylanders will continue to face bills for past due rent, fear of the threat of eviction, and challenges with legal representation when confronted with formal landlord dispossessory actions.”

If more protections aren’t put in place, the letter continued, evictions could exacerbate the spread of COVID-19. The letter addressed other important concerns like furthering the strain on Black and Latino families who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Black people make up 20% of the state’s population but represent 38% of all cases and 41% of all deaths.

One of the requested protections, like rent relief, would not only help renters, the authors of letter wrote, but also help small property owners and landlords. The letter said providing free legal assistance to individuals is also important because reporting non-payment of rent could negatively impact renter credit scores and allow renters to know their rights.

The third request in the letter is to allow for more protections for at least 90 days after the state of emergency ends, which would prevent landlords from serving evictions and collecting late fees, suspending failure to pay court hearings until 2021 and extend other emergency orders that stop individuals from losing access to utilities if they are unable to pay as a result of the pandemic.

This news was included in our weekday morning audio briefing on Oct. 14. Here’s how to listen.

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