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Rep. Russo, House Democrats renew calls for a stop to evictions and foreclosures, debt collection during the COVID-19 crisis

Say first day of April could be most financially devastating day yet for many Ohioans
April 1, 2020
C. Allison Russo News

COLUMBUS— For many, the first day of a new month means rent and bills are due. For those who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak, April 1st could be the most financially devastating day yet as fears of evictions and foreclosures may loom.

House Democrats have been calling for a prohibition of evictions and foreclosures for weeks and as the first day of a new month begins with anxiety and panic for many, they renew this call.

  • Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) has introduced House Bill (HB) 596 that would halt debt collection to provide temporary relief to consumers and small businesses impacted from the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) introduced a bipartisan bill (HB 562) to put a stop to evictions and foreclosures for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis;
  • Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) introduced HB 578 that would appropriate $20 million toward homeless shelters and emergency rental assistance;
  • Rep. Leland has also introduced a bill (HB 564) to prevent utility shutoffs to residences during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Supreme Court of Ohio has issued guidance to local courts that eviction filings should be continued until a later date, however, that is not an official court ruling and therefore, not law. The governor has said that suspending the statute of limitations in HB 197 could give courts discretion to postpone eviction filings, however, he has not signed any official executive order prohibiting such filings. House Democrats believe it is the role of state lawmakers to step in and to resolve any uncertainty surrounding this issue.

“Maintaining safe and stable housing constitutes one of the most basic and powerful social determinants of health, and the impact of COVID-19 to the economy increases housing instability for many of Ohio’s most vulnerable children and families,” said Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington). “We must act immediately to address this critical need so that our efforts to protect the public’s health and slow the spread of COVID-19 are not undermined.”

Additional gaps that House Democrats believe remain in the state and federal responses to the COVID-19 crisis:

  • More funding for JFS’s Unemployment Compensation Administration Fund to ensure they have what they need to process the massive influx of new claims;
  • Establish disinfection and work place best practices, like break room rest periods, for grocery stores and other retail food establishments to protect workers on the front lines;
  • Ensure first responders and other front-line workers can access workers compensation benefits if infected with COVID-19;
  • Allow for telehealth services to be provided and covered in the same way as in-person healthcare services;
  • Support emergency rental assistance programs to help people maintain housing, as well as homelessness programs.