As 1.2 million households face eviction, only 11% of federal rental assistance distributed

The Supreme Court ended the Biden administration's COVID-related ban on evictions, siding with landlords who said the ban put them at risk of irreparable harm. Congress has authorized some $46 billion in rental assistance relief. But Stephanie Sy reports only a fraction of it has been distributed. As many as 1.2 million households say they are "very likely" to face eviction in the next two months.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The Supreme Court has ended the Biden administration's COVID-related ban on evictions, siding with landlords who said the eviction moratorium puts them at risk of irreparable harm.

    Congress has authorized some $46 billion in rental assistance in separate relief packages, but, as Stephanie Sy reports, just a fraction of that has been distributed, and now many renters may be in trouble.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    That's right, Amna.

    Just about 11 percent, or $5 billion, of that federal aid actually has been distributed by state and local governments months after Congress approved it. And people need that aid. Census estimates show that as many as 1.2 million households say they are very likely to face eviction in the next two months. Overall, more than eight million people say they are behind on their rent.

    Kristen Randall has a first-hand view of all of this, as a court-mandated officer tasked with enforcing evictions in Tucson, Arizona.

    Constable Randall, thank you very much for joining the "NewsHour."

    I understand that, soon after last night's Supreme Court decision, you started getting calls immediately from landlords. Tell us about that and how you responded.

  • Kristen Randall:

    Hi. Thank you for having me.

    I did immediately receive calls. We found out pretty late last night about the decision from the Supreme Court. And I received four phone calls and three text messages before 8:00 a.m. this morning from landlords who wanted to immediately enforce evictions against recently delayed families who had been seeking rental assistance.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    We know that a lot of small landlords have been squeezed during the pandemic.

    But let's talk about the renters. What's been your approach to evacuations evictions during the pandemic?

  • Kristen Randall:

    During the pandemic, I have been very close to approach families prior to the actual eviction, so that I can find out if they had a plan, what their needs might be, and to see if they did qualify for the CDC order.

    That proactive approach did mean that we were able to work with families and with landlords to get rental assistance out maybe a little bit sooner than some of the other counties.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    And yet there are still a lot of people nationally who report they have applied for rental assistance, they're not getting it.

    Now that the eviction moratorium has been lifted, what are those families to do? What are you advising?

  • Kristen Randall:

    I'm advising families to immediately call the agency that has been handling their rental assistance application and to find out where that application is in the process and get a timeline.

    This way, they can go and have a very open dialogue with their landlord about that rental assistance application and let them know maybe you have three, four or five weeks to wait, but that money will come through, and then potentially get a voluntary delay by the landlord, so that they can stay housed.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Now, from where you sit, do you have any leniency that you can give? Once a court has said this tenant can be evicted, do you have any discretion on deciding whether to give somebody the 15 minutes to gather their things and leave their apartment or to decide to give them more time?

  • Kristen Randall:

    So, in Arizona, we have very little discretion, but we do have a little bit.

    This is why I like to go ahead of the eviction to make contact with families, so that they have a little bit more time. But once we get there, once we get that order in, we maybe have a few days.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    What are you expecting to happen now, Constable?

    Will you see a flood of eviction notices go out that you need to enforce?

  • Kristen Randall:

    We are expecting a giant number of evictions to come in, in the next few weeks and months. We have been preparing for the last few months for that. So we're hoping that some of these plans will be able to mitigate that.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    You have spent a lot of time with families facing eviction in your job, because, as you said, your approach is to warn them before you enforce the eviction notices.

    When you think about them, in light of this Supreme Court decision today, what is your biggest concern? And can you describe an example of a family that illustrates the challenge during the pandemic to stay in housing?

  • Kristen Randall:

    I have a family right now where the mother is going through cancer treatments. She filed for eviction prevention assistance about four weeks ago. She's still waiting on her application to be completed.

    And her landlord is one of the landlords who called me this morning to see if we could go ahead with the eviction right away. I am concerned that she has nowhere to go, since the shelters are largely full, and there are not a lot of resources out there for families right now.

    We're going to do the best we can, but I'm really concerned about where people are going to go.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Tucson is among one of the cities in the country that does have a high rate of evictions.

    Is part of the problem here also just enough affordable housing? And do you have that concern that some people will end up homeless after you enforce those evictions?

  • Kristen Randall:

    So, Tucson especially has a real issue with available housing right now. There's waiting lists for units. That's what we're seeing.

    So, when a family is evicted, finding housing for them to go to is especially difficult. And now that they have an eviction their record, it'll be even more challenging.

    I'm very concerned that a lot of families will be going to the streets homeless.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Kristen Randall, an elected constable in Tucson, Arizona, thank you so much for joining the "NewsHour" with your perspective.

  • Kristen Randall:

    Thank you so much.

Listen to this Segment