A new hot line is available to help Arkansas renters connect to resources and information about the federal eviction moratorium, officials announced at a Thursday news conference.
The hot line is operated by the Democratic Party of Arkansas in partnership with Arkansas Renters United. The number is (501) 647-1051.
Callers will be connected with resources such as legal aid or Arkansas Renters United for further questions or information. Operators will also provide information on rental assistance, depending on where the caller lives, said Billy Cook, vice president of colleges for the Young Democrats of Arkansas.
Malik Marshall, an organizer with Arkansas Renters United, said during the news conference that he speaks daily with people who are losing their housing.
"These are our people, and they're suffering," Marshall said. "During a pandemic, they're losing their homes. The No. One reason why people are still losing their homes during a pandemic is that they don't know there's an eviction moratorium."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first issued a ban on most evictions for nonpayment of rent in September, citing the need to keep people out of congregate living settings such as homeless shelters or moving in with friends or family to prevent the spread of covid-19. The CDC director most recently renewed the ban Monday, and it is scheduled to end June 30.
Renters are covered by the order if they:
• Used "best efforts" to obtain government rental or housing assistance.
• Earned less than $99,000 in 2020 or expect to earn less than that amount in 2021. For couples, the threshold is $198,000. People can also qualify if they weren't required to report any income in 2020 or received stimulus checks.
• Are unable to pay full rent or make full housing payments because of loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, were laid off or had extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.
• Are making "best efforts" to make timely partial payments.
• Would likely become homeless or have to move into a shared or congregate living setting if evicted.
For the order to apply, renters must fill out declarations stating that they qualify and give those declarations to their landlords. The form is available on the CDC's website. The form is here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/EvictionDeclare_d508.pdf
The order does not forgive rent owed, and when the ban expires, renters will owe whatever amount they couldn't pay during the pandemic. Housing experts fear that will spark a wave of evictions and increased numbers of people experiencing homelessness.
The hot line is an extension of an ongoing project by the Young Democrats of Arkansas and Arkansas Renters United to prevent evictions in Northwest Arkansas. They've been distributing packets of information in English and Spanish to local renters with information about the moratorium, two copies of the declaration form and information about registering to vote, Cook said.
They also have been reaching out to renters who have evictions filed against them in court, Cook added.
"We have to keep our neighbors safe," he said.