Watch: LAS Housing Attorneys Call for Robust Eviction Moratoriums
The Legal Aid Society appeared on BNC News with news anchor Tashanea Whitlow, as part of their coverage of Biden’s First 100 days: Economy. Whitlow interviewed Munonyedi Clifford, Director of Housing, and Jason Wu, Staff Attorney from Legal Aid Society’s Harlem Community Law Office. They discussed how the looming eviction crisis significantly impacts minority communities and what can be done to address these challenges ahead.
“We’re on the brink and there’s a looming eviction crisis, which is why we need things like the moratorium, we need the federal subsidies and rent relief to start happening, and we need to shore up the right to counsel,” said Munonyedi Clifford, Director of The Legal Aid Society’s Housing Justice Unit. “The pandemic has really just exacerbated the problems that communities of color have been facing for a very long time. The pandemic is not only a public health crisis, but it’s also a racial justice crisis, an economic crisis, so New York is strong, but people are definitely struggling and we see that every day.”
Currently, there are tenant protections at the federal and state level but these protections to stop evictions are set to expire. The federal moratorium expires June 30th, and the New York moratorium expires May 1st. In New York, there is a bill pending the New York State legislature that would extend eviction protections through August 31, 2021, which Legal Aid is urging the legislature to pass and for Governor Cuomo to sign immediately.
“We definitely need the temporary eviction moratorium to be extended and to be strengthened at a federal [and state] level, because we know it has saved lives-it really has. It has saved thousands and thousands of lives during this pandemic,” said Jason Wu, Staff Attorney with the Harlem Community Law Office at The Legal Aid Society. “The consequences of not taking action are serious for vulnerable families. “We have to understand that housing is a fundamental human right, and to disrupt that is completely destabilizing for families and for children, and it can be very traumatic.”
As the pandemic unfolds, there is great need for rental assistance from the government. New York is setting up a $2.4 billion rental assistance program.
“We want to make sure as these programs are being structured that they are accessible, but also people need access to legal services because having an attorney can really help you navigate these issues,” continued Wu.
Watch a clip from the interview here.