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As Eviction Moratorium Ends, Housing Assistance Still Available In Massachusetts

Bart Everson
Creative Commons

A federal moratorium on evictions came to an end this weekend, but housing advocates in Massachusetts say help and millions of dollars in rental assistance are available.Massachusetts is one of the top states in the country to administer rental assistance during the pandemic, according to Keith Fairey, who runs Springfield-based housing agency Way Finders.

In addition to money for rent and utilities, legal aid is available. But Fairey said getting the word out has been a challenge even as there's been a lot of outreach.

"Just recently the [Massachusetts] Department of Unemployment Assistance sent emails to people currently on unemployment, so that they would know that these resources are available," Fairey said. "MassHealth is connecting people to information."

There's also been door-to-door canvasing in Springfield and other parts of the state.

"I want people to understand that there are opportunities to cure their rental arrears, that they may not be aware of,” Fairey said. “Those are being much less advertised right now than the fact that the CDC moratorium is going away, and so I fear that that will cause people to make bad decisions."

A bad decision would be for a tenant to leave immediately if a landlord issues an eviction notice, Fairey said.

Last year Massachusetts passed a law requiring courts to delay an eviction while assistance paperwork is pending — if the hardship is related to COVID-19.

With the end of the CDC eviction moratorium, people may feel like they're losing their protection, Fairey said, and some are. 

"Anybody who wanted to be covered by the CDC moratorium had to affirmatively declare that protection [to their landlord] and many people were not doing that, to be candid," Fairey said.

The process of applying for rental assistance can also be started by some landlords. Those who own few than 20 units can apply for assistance and then get their tenants to sign on.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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