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TheStatehouseFile.com

Gov. Eric Holcomb at his weekly virutal press conference of discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Hoosiers.

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb is extending the moratorium on evictions he imposed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic from the end of June through July.

Holcomb made the announcement Wednesday at his virtual press briefing as his administration unveiled a plan to use $25 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to help as many as 12,000 Hoosiers meet rent payments.

Gov. Eric Holcomb at his weekly virutal press conference of discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Hoosiers. TheStatehouseFile.com

Holcomb imposed a moratorium on evictions in late March as businesses and activities closed to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus. The unemployment rate soared to more than 17% in April and still remains high at 12.3%, meaning that more than one in every 10 Hoosiers in the workforce is without a job.

The new Indiana COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program will start to provide up to $500 per month for four months, totaling $2,000, for households unable to pay all or part of their rent due to a job loss or income reduction resulting from the pandemic.

Jacob Sipe, executive director of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, said the program will help pay for past rents that some Hoosiers have been unable to afford.

“We’re going for four months, which allows us to go back rent as well because we recognize that some of the spike when we started to see past-due started in April,” Sipe said. “So, allowing us to go back to April 1 and to cover some of the back payments to help our households come current, then to stay current once the rental assistance has been fully exhausted.”

This program will also require landlords to agree to participate in order for their renters to apply, and those who agree will not be allowed to evict for nonpayment until the renter is more than 45 days past due.

That requirement is a serious flaw, said Dr. Woody Myers, the Democratic candidate for governor.

Dr. Woody Myers, Democratic candidate for governor. Photo by Janet Williams, TheStatehouseFile.com

The IHCDA created the Indiana COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program with the goal of supporting Hoosier renters, improving the state’s housing stability and helping prevent evictions.

The assistance program will receive the $25 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and it will be available to residents in every county except Marion, which will administer its own rental assistance program.

Applications will be accepted starting July 13 and to be eligible Hoosier households must have experienced a loss of job or income due to the pandemic, have a current household income less than that on March 6 of this year, and must not have already received rental assistance from the COVID-19 emergency response or any other source.

“With his announcement today in requiring landlord permission for renters’ participation in the program, Gov. Holcomb may as well have signed their eviction notices himself,” Myers said. “With so many Hoosiers out of work due to the economic devastation due to COVID-19, this is the wrong prescription for Indiana families.”

Along with the extension of the eviction moratorium, which is only for rent, Holcomb said that the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is reviewing cases in terms of utility payments. He said they will have the review done by July 1, and he will address that when it comes in.

As the state’s economy slowly rebounds and people begin to socialize, Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana’s health commissioner, warned Hoosiers to remain cautious. She reported that there is a total of 43,140 positive COVID-19 cases in Indiana, up by 281 from the previous day. Nine more Hoosiers have died as of Wednesday, bringing the total to 2,386 Hoosier deaths, not including the 192 deaths from COVID-19 symptomatic Hoosiers who were not tested.

“I’ve said this before, and I will repeat it today,” Box said. “This is not business as usual. Everything is not back to the way it was before COVID-19 entered our vocabulary. It’s the new normal.”

Hope Shrum is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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