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Senators Wiener, Ting Propose Statewide Moratorium on Foreclosures, Evictions

How “social isolation’ works to reduce contagion. Made by Vox from CDC data.

Californians are getting the message that to stem the rate of contagion of the COVID-19 virus, everyone needs to wash their hands and keep their distance from each other.

Not everyone can stay at home, and the fallout from the already large numbers of people avoiding social contact will cause real economic hardship for some. Canceled events, drop-offs in customer visits, and closed schools could hit people's income hard--which is especially dangerous for people who are already struggling or living paycheck to paycheck.

Senator Scott Wiener issued a statement today urging an emergency moratorium on evictions and foreclosures as a way to help people from going over the cliff into homelessness.

As we move through the COVID-19 emergency, people must be able to focus on our community’s health — slowing the virus’s spread — and not on economic survival. Yet, more and more California workers and businesses are being forced to choose between protecting public health and paying the mortgage or rent. In addition, many businesses have seen their revenue go off a cliff.

That is why I’m calling on both California and the federal government to immediately place an emergency moratorium on evictions — for both renters and businesses — as well as home foreclosures. We’re all in this together, and as we move through this emergency, we need to support each other and give people leeway to focus exclusively on keeping healthy.

Several cities are weighing similar measures. The mayor and city council in San Jose are considering a temporary moratorium on evictions, with tenants needing to provide proof that their inability to pay is somehow connected to the virus via the need for quarantine or to stay home to care for kids out of school or similar. San Francisco is considering a ban on evictions, and two Los Angeles city councilmembers have proposed similar legislation. In fact, a group is tracking eviction moratoriums across the country --most of them so far seem to be happening in California.

Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said on Twitter that after having a conversation with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, he decided to introduce a statewide bill to stop both evictions and foreclosures. "We already have a homeless crisis. We can't let it get worse," he wrote.

After convo w/ SJ Mayor @sliccardo abt his city's action to put a moratorium on evictions for residents who can't make rent b/c #COVID19, I'll be intro'ing a bill to do the same statewide & also prohibit foreclosures. We already have a homeless crisis. We can't let it get worse.

— Phil Ting (@PhilTing) March 12, 2020

"The fastest way is for the governor to issue a declaration--if he has the power to to that," Wiener told Streetsblog. It's not yet clear whether he has that power. Meanwhile, Wiener and Ting are working on a bill on the issue. As an urgency bill it would need to pass with a 2/3 vote in both houses.

The Mercury News quotes one landlord who is outraged that he would have to shoulder the burden of housing someone who couldn't pay rent. Conversely, others are urging Ting and Wiener to draft something that avoids putting a high burden on tenants to prove harm or to already be highly educated about the rule.

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment has a petition to the governor calling for an immediate moratorium on evictions, emergency income assistance to help workers who have to forego work and encourage them to stay home if they don't have sick pay, preserving medical benefits regardless when people have to cut their hours, and prohibiting utilities from shutting off access if people have trouble paying their bills.

But while so far, not many people have gotten sick, the health and economic risks are already here.

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