Senators: “Having a roof over your head is essential for Americans’ abilities to stay safe and healthy”

BIG SANDY — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to put many Americans in danger of falling behind on monthly rent payments, U.S. Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Doug Jones of Alabama today led a group of their colleagues urging the Trump Administration to enforce bans on housing evictions for the duration of the crisis.

In a letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria, Tester and his colleagues wrote that an estimated 32 percent of renters were unable to make payments this month, and that despite a ban on evictions for renters in federally-subsidized housing, some tenants have still been unlawfully evicted during the pandemic.

“As you know, the CARES Act created temporary protections from eviction for millions of tenants who live in properties with federally-backed mortgages or that receive certain types of federal housing assistance,” wrote Tester and Jones, along with their colleagues. “During a time when having a roof over your head is essential for Americans’ abilities to stay safe and healthy, Congress insisted that these safeguards be put in place to help those at risk of losing their housing in the midst of the public health and economic crises. These protections, as well as all tenant protections available under federal, state, and local law, must be honored and enforced.”

A recent oversight hearing by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with federal housing regulators revealed that, since April, communities in several states have allowed landlords to move forward with eviction proceedings, despite the mandated temporary protections for renters established under the CARES Act. Tester and his colleagues urged the Administration to help renters understand what protections they have under the CARES Act, and to take proactive steps to ensure compliance with rules that prohibit evictions during the crisis.

“During this pandemic, when it is dangerous for individuals to even be required to appear in a court room, it is troubling that some renters have been unlawfully removed from their homes in violation of the clear protections of the CARES Act,” the Senators’ letter continues. “As evictions continue to rise, more must be done to ensure these protections are adhered to and any violations are immediately addressed, otherwise the repercussions will be severely felt by millions of the most vulnerable Americans, including elderly and low-income renters and many essential workers.”

Tester was joined by Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Tina Smith of Minnesota, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Gary Peters of Michigan, Patty Murray of Washington, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tom Udall of New Mexico,  Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Debbie Stabenow of Minnesota, Jacky Rosen of Nevada, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Tom Carper of Delaware, and Charles Schumer of New York.

Tester has secured more than $3 million in housing relief to help Montanans hardest hit by the pandemic, and fought to ensure the CARES Act included $5 billion in supplemental Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.

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