Protecting our vulnerable residents and businesses during a crisis such as the current COVID-19 pandemic is an important responsibility of state government. The current tenant protections ordered by Gov. Ned Lamont, which expire at the end of September, have been very effective and should be continued.
Here in Connecticut, where thousands of tenants who were economically impacted by the pandemic and lockdown were protected from losing their homes, we have the resources and flexibility – thanks in large part to the federal CARES Act – to continue funding these important protections. And it is clearly the humane and moral thing to do.
In addition, the challenges faced by landlords because of tenants not being able to afford their rent due to job loss and the various eviction moratoriums, are real as well, and aren’t being ignored. Which is why our UniteCT program (and the previous TRAP – Temporary Rental Assistance Program) through the Department of Housing in conjunction with the U.S. Treasury worked with landlords to pay them back rent as an alternative to evicting those most vulnerable residents.
Moreover, the governor in July ordered a new requirement that landlords must apply for UniteCT funds before initiating the eviction process. At the time, the federal moratorium was largely still in effect.
But sadly, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled against the continuance of federally issued eviction moratoriums. Despite clear public health reasoning by the Centers for Disease Control, the Supreme Court lifted the CDC eviction moratorium ordered by President Biden.
Nonetheless, the high court did leave the door open for Congress to act, and by extension, states as well.
Specifically, the legislature should consider passing a special act to continue the UniteCT application requirement for landlords, a very effective policy, for another six months. The federal funding for this program, which helps landlords directly, should be exhausted before this requirement ends.
Frankly, doing nothing could create an historic housing crisis that would ripple through our entire society and economy. A potential tsunami of evictions is just on the horizon, affecting people who, prior to the pandemic, have never faced eviction or missed rent.
Thousands of people in our state are still hurting from the impact of the pandemic and if their government doesn’t look at all options available to help them, we all fall short in our duties as representatives of our constituents.
Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, is the Speaker of the House of the Connecticut General Assembly.
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