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Las Vegas forum offers guidance to those facing eviction

Updated June 9, 2021 - 6:35 pm

Financial assistance is available for Nevadans at risk of being evicted for nonpayment of rent and more money is likely on the way.

That was the message state and local leaders emphasized during a public forum at the Desert Breeze Community Center early Wednesday morning — over two weeks before the federal eviction moratorium is set to expire June 30.

“We have well over $100 million that’s still dedicated for rental assistance at this time,” said Clark County Administrator of Human Services Tim Burch.

The county’s housing assistance program, known as CHAP, is expected to receive additional funds following the passage of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan in March. The plan provides up to $21.6 billion towards Emergency Rental Assistance programs with Nevada expected to receive nearly $165 million, according to data from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Nearly 12 million Americans report they lack the confidence to make next month’s rent, according to the Treasury. Its latest figures also found nearly 7 million Americans reported being behind on rent in the second half of April with more than 40 percent of those respondents concerned they’ll be evicted in the next two months.

Tenants at risk of losing shelter is why Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones co-hosted the public forum with U.S. Rep. Susie Lee, Assemblywoman Brittney Miller, the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and Clark County’s Social Service Department.

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Jim Berchtold, Legal Aid Center’s directing attorney of the Consumer Rights Project, said even though a renter is protected from an eviction through this month they must still respond to an eviction notice.

“If they don’t file (an answer) with the court, that eviction will be granted automatically because from the court’s perspective the tenant doesn’t oppose it,” said Berchtold.

He said tenants should also apply for rental assistance through the CHAP, which covers a renter’s housing costs and utilities.

Berchtold also said the passage of Assembly Bill 486 this week has bolstered protections for renters. For example, tenants who have applied for rental assistance can use it as a defense during an eviction hearing.

“If you are being evicted … when you appear in court to defend yourself you can raise the fact that you have a pending CHAP application,” he said. “The eviction will pause to allow the application to be processed. So, ideally the application is approved (and) the money goes to landlord and the eviction goes away.”

Burch encouraged renters to apply for rental assistance even if they’re unsure about their eligibility.

He said current applicants should make sure their information is correct by logging into their CHAP portal as well checking the email account they used to register their application, noting that 90 percent of applications have been delayed because of incorrect documentation.

Since the CHAP program began in July, it has paid out $110 million in rental and utility assistance to 25,000 households. Burch said there are currently 10,000 applications.

Bright spot

Congresswoman Lee said the additional funding under the American Rescue Plan is critical for Nevadans facing an eviction.

“We are coming out of the Recession, people are getting back to work — it’s still not 100 percent employment so we’re still seeing families struggling,” said Lee. “And we had a housing crisis prior to COVID-19 so this has just exacerbated it.”

Lee said Biden’s recently introduced American Families Plan includes housing as key infrastructure and something state officials will be examining.

It’s also something Jones expects the county to tackle as it looks past the eviction crisis.

“We are looking forward to the opportunities we have … to not only address our current eviction crisis but also to change the face of this crisis going forward,” he said. “We are having excellent discussions … to make sure we don’t face this type of crisis again and that means building more affordable housing, more opportunities for folks to get out of poverty and get back to work.”

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.

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