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September 15, 2020

Op-ed: We need rent relief now to prevent a wave of homelessness

AUSTIN, Texas (September 15, 2020) — Our community, our state, and our nation need rent relief now on the federal level to prevent a new wave of homelessness due to COVID-19.

ECHO Executive Director Matt Mollica partnered with Rachel Stone, Chair of the Austin Housing Coalition, to make that argument in an op-ed published by the Austin American-Statesman on Tuesday.

Here’s an excerpt:

Austin, like so many cities across the country, is on the verge of another crisis. Thousands of our neighbors have lost their jobs, and without rent relief payments, they’re at risk of losing their homes due to the economic impact of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention granted a temporary reprieve this month, rightly banning evictions nationwide until December 31st, but make no mistake: Renters will still owe unpaid rent that’s piling up month after month, and without direct rental assistance payments to struggling renters and indebted landlords, homelessness will rise in our community when eviction moratoriums end.

Rent will still be due for the bartenders and line cooks who cannot return to work. It will be due for the school custodians still waiting to find out their role in virtual classrooms. It will be due for the shopkeepers, musicians, and hotel staff who don’t know when to expect their customers will return. We can and must act now. If we ever want to create an inclusive, equitable Austin for all, we have to tell the people who represent us in Congress to prevent this crisis.

The mechanism to do so already exists. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act in May. It includes $200 billion for housing and homelessness priorities, half for emergency rental assistance. The Senate has so far refused to vote on this critical relief bill. Republican Senators instead introduced their own version of a stripped-down relief bill last week, one which does not include any direct rental assistance. This proposal is cruel and dangerous, a rejection of their duty to serve and represent the interests of all Americans.

Matt Mollica and Rachel Stone writing in the Austin American-Statesman

ECHO and the Austin Housing Coalition urge every Austinite to call their U.S. senators and tell them to pass the HEROES Act. Call Senator John Cornyn’s D.C. office at 202-224-2934 and Senator Ted Cruz’s at 202-224-5922. Tell them you support rent relief now to prevent a new homelessness crisis.

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