After consecutive weeks of record-setting unemployment claims in Colorado and the nation as a whole, the first rent and mortgage due dates of the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis came and went last week.
Some were able to pay their April rent but are unsure what the future holds. Others, like Zillah Livyatan couldn’t pay for April are now dealing with the prospect of eviction.
Livyatan is a non-binary trans person who lives with their girlfriend, who is also trans, in Denver. On April 1, Livyatan received a notice from their landlord demanding $1,320, a full month’s rent, within 10 days. Livyatan and their girlfriend usually pay bi-monthly through an automated system but closed their bank account ahead of a March 26 due date to avoid overdrafting.
They both have pre-existing health conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, Livyatan said in an interview with a Denver Post reporter conducted over Facebook Messenger. They have been spending extra on food the past few weeks amid shortages of things they need for specialized diets. Livyatan works from home as a contractor in the IT field but their girlfriend has been out of work since November and has no safe prospects in this environment.
“We let (our landlord) know a few days in advance when we were really sure there was no way we could manage it without starving,” Livyatan said Friday of paying rent. “He asked for proof she was out of work due to corona. She has contacted unemployment and we are waiting on paperwork from them.”
In the meantime, the couple has called Denver’s 3-1-1 help phone line and the state’s 2-1-1 line. They have been in touch with a pro bono lawyer and City Council members. As of Friday, they were looking at tapping into the city’s temporary rental and utility assistance, or TRUA, program. As with many support resources right now, Livyatan warned of long wait times on the 2-1-1 lines last week.
“We are pretty freaked out but not totally alone,” Livyatan said. “Very worried about everyone else in our position in the next few days or next month, too.”
With many people across the state facing rent, mortgage and other shortfalls related to the pandemic, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs last week put out a list of resources to help alleviate the pressure. Here are those recommendations:
What can I do if I facing eviction?
The Department of Local Affairs has been granted $3 million from the state’s disaster emergency fund to boost short-term rental and mortgage assistance for low-income households, specifically those making 50% or less of their area median income.
Those funds are being distributed in two ways:
- Through local nonprofits
- Through statewide housing organizations and public housing authorities that already provide homes to large numbers of low-income residents
The department has created an interactive eviction resources map available at bit.ly/2V9l1uz that directs users to the best options in their area. For Denver, the map recommends getting in touch with the TRUA program by dialing the city’s 3-1-1 line and pressing 6.
Help through the state’s 2-1-1 line is also available to help direct people to the proper organization to request rental assistance.
State public safety officials have been working with sheriff’s departments, mayors and others officials around the state to push for a suspension of evictions enforcement until at least April 30, according to DOLA.
What can I do if I am facing foreclosure?
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act that Congress passed last month included protections for residential mortgages regardless of their delinquency status.
The act mandates that no foreclosures be processed for at least 60 days dating back to March 19 unless the property being foreclosed on is vacant or abandoned. It further orders that lenders provide up to 180 days before taking action against a borrower with another 180-day extension available at the borrower’s request.
The Department of Local Affairs has worked with the American Bankers Association on recommendations it is passing on to the homeowners. The association is keeping a running list of measures being employed by specific banks online at bit.ly/2xPvGmv.
What can I do if my power, water or other utilities could be shut off?
The state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies has been working with municipal and privately owned utility companies to track the relief they are offering to customers. Xcel and dozens of other providers (a full list is available at rb.gy/wod5af) have agreed to the following measures during the crisis, according to the state:
- No service cutoffs for late or missed payments
- No reconnection fees
- No fees related to late payments
- Reconnecting services for customers recently disconnected for lack of payment
- Offering a low-income payment assistance program
- Launching a medical exemption policy stopping disconnection
Beyond offering tips and resources to residents, the state has also provided recommendations for landlords and lenders, including urging them to stop evictions through at least April 30 and to waive fees for late rent for anyone who has lost income as a result of the public health crisis. Gov. Jared Polis has not issued any orders freezing eviction proceedings in the state during the crisis.