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Help Available For Thousands Of Oklahomans Protected Under Now-Vacated CDC Eviction Moratorium

eviction_notice_closeup.png
Flickr user rickonine
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Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Updated May 6, 10:10 a.m.  

Thousands of Oklahomans could be affected by a federal judge's ruling Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lacked authority to issue a national eviction moratorium.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich issued a stay of her order until at least May 16, when the Department of Justice's filings to appeal the ruling are due. That means people who have filed for protection under the moratorium can stay in their homes for now.

While there have been other legal challenges against the moratorium, no previous decisions have vacated it.

The moratorium was put in place last year to help people who lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic avoid then losing their homes during the health emergency, putting them at higher risk of infection as they stayed with friends or family or went to shelters.

Renters had to file a declaration and show they were doing their best to pay rent in order to qualify for protection. Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation Executive Director Katie Dilks says she believes roughly 1,000 Tulsa-area renters filed declarations as they faced eviction proceedings.

"And many, many more, of course, statewide. So, there are a lot of people who are potentially impacted by the lifting of this, and it's going to be a real interesting logistical hurdle for the courts to have all of these cases that have been sort of paused under the moratorium come potentially flooding back in," Dilks said.

The moratorium was issued in September and extended three times, most recently in March. It was set to expire June 30.

Dilks said there is more than $200 million in rental assistance available to Oklahomans. Restore Hope Ministries is administering the Tulsa-area Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Applications are available on its website. Funds are paid directly to landlords.

Renters facing eviction should also get representation. Legal Aid of Oklahoma offers free assistance to defendants on eviction dockets, but they are also available before a court appearance.

"If you're concerned or if your landlord has threatened eviction, reaching out to Legal Aid as soon as possible to connect with them can help negotiate with your landlord, can help navigate the rental assistance process, and make sure that people can stay in their homes and that landlords can have their rent paid and be able to pay their bills and maintain their building," Dilks said.

According to Open Justice Oklahoma, more than 8,700 evictions have been filed in Tulsa County alone during the pandemic, with 2,800 since Jan. 1. More than 40% of evictions in Tulsa County have been granted.

The image for this story, Eviction NOTICE by Flickr user rickonine, is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

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