COLUMBUS— For many, the first day of a new month means rent and bills are due. For those who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak, April 1st could be the most financially devastating day yet as fears of evictions and foreclosures may loom.
House Democrats have been calling for a prohibition of evictions and foreclosures for weeks and as the first day of a new month begins with anxiety and panic for many, they renew this call.
- Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) has introduced House Bill (HB) 596 that would halt debt collection to provide temporary relief to consumers and small businesses impacted from the COVID-19 outbreak;
- Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) introduced a bipartisan bill (HB 562) to put a stop to evictions and foreclosures for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis;
- Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) introduced HB 578 that would appropriate $20 million toward homeless shelters and emergency rental assistance;
- Rep. Leland has also introduced a bill (HB 564) to prevent utility shutoffs to residences during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Supreme Court of Ohio has issued guidance to local courts that eviction filings should be continued until a later date, however, that is not an official court ruling and therefore, not law. The governor has said that tolling the statute of limitations in HB 197 could give courts discretion to postpone eviction filings, however, he has not signed any official executive order prohibiting such filings. House Democrats believe it is the role of state lawmakers to step in and to resolve any uncertainty surrounding this issue.
“We passed a sweeping, bipartisan bill last week (HB 197) that addresses many of the concerns of our constituents, but gaps still remain,” House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) said. “Unfortunately, too many Ohioans are still facing financial hardships through no fault of their own due to this crisis. On behalf of all of those who are still hurting and need help, I also call on the Speaker and Senate President to bring the General Assembly back soon to address the many unresolved issues that remain legislatively.
We also appeal to landlords not to evict during this crisis and to instead work with their fellow citizens and small business owners while the state rushes to expand unemployment and business assistance. These benefits have only recently been made available to large swaths of our communities, or could become available in the coming weeks, and as a result, may require some time to make it into Ohioans’ bank accounts.
People cannot adhere to the governor’s stay at home order if they have no home in which to stay. Part of protecting the public’s health is by ensuring that basic needs like food and shelter are met. By failing to act, the lives of Ohioans will be even further endangered than they are already in this public health crisis. The General Assembly can fix this, but House Democrats cannot do it alone.”
Additional gaps that House Democrats believe remain in the state and federal responses to the COVID-19 crisis:
- More funding for JFS’s Unemployment Compensation Administration Fund to ensure they have what they need to process the massive influx of new claims;
- Establish disinfection and work place best practices, like break room rest periods, for grocery stores and other retail food establishments to protect workers on the front lines;
- Ensure first responders and other front-line workers can access workers compensation benefits if infected with COVID-19;
- Allow for telehealth services to be provided and covered in the same way as in-person healthcare services;
- Support emergency rental assistance programs to help people maintain housing, as well as homelessness programs;