One analysis estimates as many as 133,000 evictions may be filed in Oklahoma over the next four months as a federal moratorium expires.
Several organizations in the state are teaming up to head off any surge in evictions. The Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation, Oklahoma Bar Association, and COVID task forces in Tulsa and Oklahoma City are working to beef up the Early Settlement Mediation Program.
The organizations are partnering to recruit and train more mediators and get the word out about their services. Restore Hope Ministries Executive Director Rev. Jeff Jaynes said it’s coming not a moment too soon.
"This possible tsunami of evictions that are coming to us as a result of the CARES Act moratorium, we know it’s coming. We have a month of advance warning," Jaynes said.
Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation Executive Director Katie Dilks said local, state and federal resources are available to help people pay rent.
"And by using mediation as a way to have a conversation, really, between a landlord and a tenant, it slows the process down and lets these people connect with the resources that are available in order to avoid eviction and potential homelessness," Dilks said.
As the federal eviction moratorium expires, $600 a week in enhanced unemployment benefits are also ending in Oklahoma.
A consulting firm estimates 197,000 Oklahoma households may be unable to pay rent.