Legal Aid continues serving our clients and our community at this critical time. Our entire team across five counties and four offices is working remotely to resolve fundamental problems for our clients and work toward systemic solutions related to shelter, safety and economic security. We stay engaged with our clients, colleagues, partners and volunteer attorneys via phone, text, video and email. Online intake is accessible 24/7 and telephone intake is open during select business hours.
Legal Aid is proud to share the below information about evolving legal rights and remedies related to the coronavirus pandemic. Toggle below to see brochures, FAQs, and news on specific coronavirus topics.
We know this is a time of uncertainty and confusion, so we increased legal education posts on this page, Twitter, and Facebook. Knowledge is power and we strive to give people accurate information to make decisions and plan effectively for themselves and their families during these uncertain and stressful times. We will continue to expand this community education as new issues arise.
Beyond this, Legal Aid now offers a Worker Information Line and a Tenant Information Line! People with questions about employment rights, benefits or unemployment assistance should call 216-861-5899 in Cuyahoga County or 440-210-4532 from Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake or Lorain Counties.
Tenants should call 216-861-5955 in Cuyahoga County or 440-210-4533 from Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake or Lorain Counties. The Tenant Information Line continues to help answer questions about housing rights for tenants.
Know Your Rights. Get Your Benefits. Call Legal Aid!
Click here for a quick and easy “Know Your Rights” reference card (in English and Spanish) with COVID-19 legal info related to housing, employment, money, benefits, immigration, education and family issues.
Need a volume of these info cards? Call 216-861-5889 to request some for use in community distribution of food boxes, home school packets and for use with other outreach.
Do you have questions? Legal Aid has answers!
Every Worker has Rights at Work, Including Undocumented Workers
Minimum Wage: Most workers have the right to be paid the current minimum wage in Ohio. For the current rate, check: https://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm
If you make tips at work, the amount you make in tips plus the amount you make per hour must add up to at least the minimum wage rate.
Overtime Pay: Most workers have the right to overtime pay when they work over 40 hours in a workweek. The overtime rate is one and one-half (1½) times your rate of pay. For example, a $10/ hour regular rate would be a $15/hour overtime rate ($10 x 1.5 = $15).
Discrimination and Sexual Harassment: You have the right to a workplace that is free from sexual harassment and discrimination based on your race, color, sex (including pregnancy), religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, military status and age.
You also have the right to participate in any claim or investigation about these issues.
Organizing: You have the right to organize a union at work and talk about unionizing during nonwork hours (breaks). You also have the right to talk to your supervisor about problems at work that affect you or your coworkers.
Safety: You have the right to a safe workplace. Your work must provide and require the use of proper safety gear and safeguards. You cannot be forced to enter any workplace that is unsafe. You cannot be forced to perform work without proper safety gear or safeguards.
How to Protect Yourself
Document! Keep your own records of (1) what days you worked; (2) how many hours you worked each day; and (3) whether you took any breaks and how long. Always compare your pay rate on your paystub to what you were actually paid and document any difference between the two.
Know Who You Are Working For! Know the address and phone number for your workplace and the name of your supervisor.
Get Help! Get help as soon as you can when you believe that something may be wrong.
What to Do if Your Employer Owes You Pay
Call Legal Aid at 888.817.3777 or 216.687.1900.
File a complaint with the State of Ohio Bureau of Wage and Hour Administration at 614.644.2239.
Call the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division at 866.487.9243 or 216.357.5400.
File a lawsuit in Small Claims Court for up to $6,000 in unpaid wages, plus interest and costs.
What to Do if You Were Discriminated Against or You Were Punished for Speaking Up About Your Rights
Call Legal Aid at 888.817.3777 or 216.687.1900.
If you were discriminated against, file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 800.669.4000 or the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) at 216.787.3150.
If your right to organize was violated, file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) at 216.522.3715.
What to Do if Your Workplace is Unsafe
Notify your supervisor or the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) at 216.447.4194.
Ask OSHA to inspect your workplace.
If you were discriminated against or punished because you filed a safety complaint with OSHA, you have 30 days to inform OSHA of the discrimination or retaliation by filing an additional complaint.
Request copies of your medical records from your doctor and collect other records that document your exposure to toxic or harmful chemicals.
What to Do if You Were Hurt on the Job
As soon as you are hurt:
- Get medical help;
- Tell your work you have been hurt. Let your supervisor know you have been hurt and ask if you need to fill out an accident report;
- Tell your doctor or emergency room the name of your health care organization that handles workers’ compensation claims. If you don’t know, find out from your workplace. This helps ensure your injury is counted as work related;
- Tell your pharmacist that any prescriptions you receive are related to treatment for an Ohio Worker’s Compensation claim;
- File a Workers’ Compensation claim with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
What more info?
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Employment Law
Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law: The Basics
Learn about Ohio Landlord-Tenant Law through this new brochure published by Legal Aid. Click here to see a PDF of the brochure.
In Ohio a Landlord has a duty to:
- Keep the property in livable condition.
- Keep the common areas clean and safe.
- Comply with building, housing, health, and safety codes.
- Keep in good working order all electrical, plumbing, heating, and ventilation equipment.
- Maintain all appliances and equipment supplied by the landlord.
- Provide running water, hot water and heat (unless the hot water and heat are controlled entirely by the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility hook-up).
- Provide garbage cans and trash removal (if the landlord owns four or more residential units in the same building).
- Give at least 24 hours notice, unless it is an emergency, before entering a tenant’s unit, and enter only at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner.
- Evict the tenant when informed by a law enforcement officer of drug activity by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or a guest of the tenant occurring in or otherwise connected with the tenant’s premises.
In Ohio a Tenant has a duty to:
- Keep the property clean and safe.
- Dispose of rubbish in the proper manner.
- Keep the plumbing fixtures as clean as their condition permits.
- Use electrical and plumbing fixtures properly.
- Comply with housing, health, and safety codes that apply to tenants.
- Refrain from damaging the property and keep guests from causing damage.
- Maintain appliances supplied by the landlord in good working order.
- Conduct yourself in a manner that does not disturb any neighbors and require guests to do the same.
- Permit landlord to enter the dwelling unit if the request is reasonable and proper notice is given.
- Comply with state or municipal drug laws in connection with the property and require household members and guests to do the same.
What You Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits
Are you recently unemployed? You can receive unemployment compensation benefits if you are unemployed (1) due to lack of work (laid off), (2) you were discharged without just cause, or (3) you quit with just cause. This brochure outlines how to apply for unemployment benefits, what a Determination is, and how you can appeal an unfavorable Determination. Also included is information on what happens after a Redetermination is issued and steps you must take to continue receiving unemployment benefits after you apply. For more information and to apply for benefits online, you can visit https://unemployment.ohio.gov.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: What You Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits
This brochure is also available in Spanish at: Lo que usted debe Conocer Acerca del Beneficio de Desempleo
Can’t Get Your Last Pay Check?
Lost your job and your former employer will not give you your last paycheck? Here are some steps you can take. This brochure explains what you should do if you cannot get your last paycheck. (1) Remember to give back all company property, (2) wait until your regular payday has passed, and (3) make a request for your paycheck in writing if your payday has passed. If that doesn’t work, you may file a complaint with the Ohio Wage and Hour Bureau, call Legal Aid, or go to Small Claims Court. Contact information is included.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Can’t Get Your Last Pay Check?
Domestic Violence: What Is It? What Can You Do About It?
Are you the victim of domestic abuse or violence? This brochure describes what domestic violence is, provides the numbers of local and national domestic violence hotlines, and outlines steps to take if you are a victim of abuse. It explains the importance of a Criminal Temporary Protection Order (TPO) and Civil Protection Order (CPO), the differences between the two, and how to file for each. The brochure also describes how to press for criminal charges and what to do if charges are filed and the abuser is convicted.
More information is available in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Domestic Violence: What Is It? What Can You Do About It?
This brochure is also available in Spanish at: Violencia Doméstica: ¿Qué es? ¿Qué puede hacer usted acerca de esto?
What are Community Resources during COVID-19?
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 created the temporary food benefit program called Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) that will be issued through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) is partnering with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to ensure that families with children in kindergarten through twelfth grade receive the benefit. All school-age children that are eligible for free and reduced-price meals will receive P-EBT benefits. Each child is eligible for $5.70 for each day a school is closed due to COVID-19. For more information about the P-EBT benefits, see this flyer. For questions about benefits, contact the ODJFS customer service line at 1.866.244.0071.
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank continues to provide food assistance to families in need throughout northeast Ohio. Call the Help Center at 216.738.2067 if you need food assistance, Monday – Friday, 7 am – 6 pm.
Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) will continue meal service to all students during the shutdown of Ohio schools. Meals are free for all children in the city of Cleveland 18 and younger. Click here for a flyer with school meal pickup sites and shuttle information.
Aramark will provide emergency meals for Lorain City School District (LCSD) Monday through Friday at various sites. For more information and to see a list of the meal sites, visit the Lorain City School District website.
Many other school districts continue distributing free meals to families. Visit your district’s website for information about times and locations to pick up meals.
Phone & Internet Access
Free and low-cost internet access is available from Charter Communications and Comcast. Households with school-aged children are eligible for free services. To enroll in free internet during the COVID 19 pandemic, call 1-844-488-8395. Other households may qualify for low-cost service. For more information, visit Spectrum Internet Assist.
Innovate Ohio has compiled a list of public hotspot locations that Ohioans can use in areas where they may not otherwise have access. For a list of Ohio wi-fi hotspot locations, click here.
Mental Health Services
The ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County has provided resources to support mental health during this stressful time. If you are experiencing stress or anxiety, you can call the Cuyahoga County Warmline at 440.886.5950 to talk with a peer. The warmline operates daily from 9am-1am. You can also text “4hope” to 741741, the Crisis Test Line. If you are in crisis, please call the 24-hour Suicide Prevention, Mental Health/Addiction Crisis, Information and Referral Hotline at 216.623.6888.
Signature Health is providing telemedicine services for mental and behavioral health to patients on Medicare, Medicaid and those without any health insurance. New patients of Signature Health can call 440.578.8200 to schedule a telemedicine appointment. For more information regarding telehealth services at Signature Health, click here.
Shelter and Utilities
Ashtabula County Community Action Agency announces changes to the application process for their Energy Assistance programs during the state of emergency. Ashtabula County Residents who are enrolling in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) for the first time, applying for the Home Energy Assistance Winter Crisis Program, or with incomes at or below 30% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, are no longer required to visit the Ashtabula County Community Action Agency in order to complete an application. In person appointments have been suspended but clients must still call to make their appointments at 440.997.5957 or 866.223.1471. Clients may submit their documentation online here or by dropping documents off at 6920 Austinburg Road, Ashtabula, Ohio 44004. For more information, visit ACCAA’s website.
The Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority will be accepting applications for the Housing Choice Voucher Program waiting list. Applicants must complete the pre-application and send it to LMHAHCVP-WL PO Box 1009 Lorain, Ohio 44055. The envelope must be postmarked by May 29, 2020 to be eligible. For more information about next steps and how to apply, click here.
Emergency Financial Assistance
Some counties are expanding Prevention, Retention, Contingency (PRC) benefits to cover certain needs related to COVID 19. Contact the Department of Job and Family Service in your county for more information. In Cuyahoga County, visit: https://cjfs.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/PRC.aspx. To apply for PRC, call United Way at (216) 436-2000 or Ohio Benefits at 844-640-6446.
UCAN has emergency financial assistance for rent, utilities and other emergency basic needs. Individuals do not need an agency referral and do not need to be working to apply. Visit www.ucanapply.org for more information and to apply.
The Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry in partnership with the North Star Neighborhood Reentry Resource Center is providing walk up and drive-thru supply distribution for those directly impacted by incarceration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors can receive vouchers for birth certificates, 2 bus tickets with new modified bus routes, Dave’s gift card, non-perishable food items, soap, hand sanitizer, and a list of open resources. These distributions will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays through June from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm at North Star Reentry Resource Center at 1834 E. 55th Street, Cleveland, OH 44103. For more information, contact the Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Marcus Bell of NRRC at 216.881.5440.
Other Community Resources
There will be a COVID-19 PPE kit distribution at the May Dugan Center (4115 Bridge Ave Cleveland, Ohio 44113) on Saturday, June 27th from 12-4 pm (while supplies last). There is a limit of one kit per household and a max of two kits per vehicle. Participants must stay in their vehicles. In observance of social distancing measures, supplies will be place directly into vehicle trunks. For more information, contact Andy Trares at 216.631.5800 ext. 300 or email@example.com.
What is the status of local courts and agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Read more about Legal Aid’s procedures related to COVID-19 here: www.lasclev.org/COVID19
Legal Aid is also closely monitoring updates from local courts and agencies. Here is a summary of quick links to webpages, updated as of May 6th, 2020:
- United States Supreme Court: https://www.supremecourt.gov/announcements/COVID-19.aspx
- The Supreme Court of Ohio (for a list of amended Ohio court procedures by county): http://sc.ohio.gov/coronavirus/courts/default.aspx
- Eighth District Court of Appeals: https://appeals.cuyahogacounty.us/
- Ninth District Court of Appeals: http://www.ninth.courts.state.oh.us/index.htm
- Eleventh District Court of Appeals: http://www.11thcourt.co.trumbull.oh.us/ed_announcements.html
- Public Utilities Commission of Ohio: https://www.puco.ohio.gov/
- Ashtabula Municipal Court: http://www.ashtabulamunicourt.com/wordpress/
- Conneaut Municipal Court: http://www.conneautohio.gov/alert_detail.php
- Children Services: http://help-a-child.com/
- Bedford Municipal Court: https://www.bedfordmuni.org/
- Berea Municipal Court: http://www.bereamunicipalcourt.org/
- Cleveland Heights Municipal Court: http://www.clevelandheightscourt.com/
- Cleveland Municipal Court: https://clevelandmunicipalcourt.org/
- Cleveland Municipal Housing Court: https://clevelandmunicipalcourt.org/housingcourt
- Cleveland Law Library: https://clevelandlawlibrary.org/
- Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court: https://cp.cuyahogacounty.us/court-information/covid-19/
- Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court: http://domestic.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/home.aspx
- Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court: http://juvenile.cuyahogacounty.us/
- Cuyahoga County Probate Court: http://probate.cuyahogacounty.us/Default.aspx
- Cuyahoga County Public Defenders: http://publicdefender.cuyahogacounty.us/
- East Cleveland Municipal Court: http://www.eccourt.com/
- Euclid Municipal Court: http://www.cityofeuclid.com/community/court
- Garfield Hts. Municipal Court: https://www.ghmc.org/
- Lakewood Municipal Court: http://www.lakewoodcourtoh.com/index.html
- Lyndhurst Municipal Court: http://www.lyndhurstmunicipalcourt.org/
- Parma Municipal Court: http://parmamunicourt.org/
- Rocky River Municipal Court: http://rrcourt.net/
- Shaker Hts. Municipal Court: http://www.shakerheightscourt.org/home/
- South Euclid Municipal Court: http://southeuclidcourt.com/
- U.S. District Court Northern District: https://www.ohnd.uscourts.gov/
- U.S. Bankruptcy Court Northern District: https://www.ohnb.uscourts.gov/
- All Cuyahoga County buildings are closed to the public, but services available online and by phone: https://cuyahogacounty.us/
- Children and Family Services: https://cuyahogacounty.us/online-services#cfs
- Child Support Services: https://cuyahogacounty.us/online-services#ocss
- Job and Family Services: https://cuyahogacounty.us/online-services#cjfs
- Senior and Adult Services: https://cuyahogacounty.us/online-services#dsas
- Veterans Service Commission: http://cuyahogavets.org/
- City of Cleveland will temporarily cease shutoffs and restore connections to public water and power in light of COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.cleveland.com/news/2020/03/city-of-cleveland-will-temporary-cease-shutoffs-and-restore-connections-to-public-water-power-in-light-of-coronavirus-pandemic.html
- Geauga County Court of Common Pleas: https://www.co.geauga.oh.us/commonpleas/Clerk-Of-Courts
- Chardon Municipal Court: https://www.co.geauga.oh.us/municourt/
- Department on Aging: https://www.co.geauga.oh.us/Departments/Aging
- Job and Family Services: https://www.geaugajfs.org/
- Veterans Services: https://vets.co.geauga.oh.us/
- Lake County Court of Common Pleas: https://www.lakecountyohio.gov/cpcgd/
- Lake County Probate Court: https://www.lakecountyohio.gov/probatelco/COVID-19-Information
- All Lake County buildings are closed to the public, but services available online and by phone: https://www.lakecountyohio.gov/
- Elyria Municipal Court: https://elyriamunicourt.org/
- Lorain County Court of Common Pleas: http://cp.onlinedockets.com/LorainCP/index.aspx
- Lorain County Domestic Relations/Juvenile Court: https://www.loraincounty.com/domesticrelations/
- Department of Job and Family Services: http://www.lcdjfs.com/latest-news–updates
- Veterans Service Commission: https://www.loraincountyveterans.com/
What are Consumer Protections and Scams during COVID-19?
What are Education Rights during COVID-19?
What are Immigration Rules during COVID-19?
What are Public Benefits Changes during COVID-19?
Are the offices of Job and Family Services open?
Jobs and Family Services (JFS) lobbies are closed to the public. For information or to apply, call Ohio Benefits at 1-844-640-OHIO or visit benefits.ohio.gov. For Cuyahoga County residents: To drop off documents, use the drop boxes at the Virgil E Brown, Jane Edna Hunter, Quincy, Old Brooklyn, or Westshore locations. Verifications may also be mailed to the Agency. JFS will mail you a postage paid envelope if you call and ask for one.
What happens to my cash benefits if I can’t work, attend training/education, or look for a job right now?
At this time, most Ohio counties are not requiring recipients of Ohio Works First (OWF) cash assistance benefits to participate in work activities because of the Governor’s Stay at Home order. The federal government has not removed work requirements, but told states to be flexible and use “good cause” exemptions when possible. For more information, see: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ofa/resource/tanf-acf-pi-2020-01
How do I maintain health care during the COVID 19 pandemic?
Health insurers must allow employers to continue covering employees, even if the employee would otherwise become ineligible because of a decrease in hours worked per week. Employees may be working a significantly reduced schedule right now, through no fault of their own.
Those who do lose insurance coverage, are eligible for a special enrollment period to gain new coverage. Premium subsidies may be available for those who qualify by purchasing plans on the federal exchange.
I’m a parent without childcare and I work an essential job. What benefits can I access?
Parents whose jobs are deemed essential should apply immediately for emergency childcare. Most jobs in health and safety fields are considered essential. For more information, go here: http://jfs.ohio.gov/cdc/CoronavirusAndChildcareForFamilies/
Are childcare facilities still allowed to operate?
Childcare facilities must have a pandemic license in order to operate now through April 30, 2020. For more information, go here: http://jfs.ohio.gov/cdc/CoronavirusAndChildcareForFamilies/
Can I receive financial assistance to help pay my bills?
Some counties are expanding their Prevention, Retention, Contingency (PRC) benefits to cover certain needs related to COVID 19. You must have a child living in your household or be pregnant to be eligible for this program. You must also be below a certain income level. This financial assistance is limited to food assistance, rental assistance and essential supplies such as cleaning products, infant care items, and cleaning products.
You can contact the Department of Job and Family Service in your county for more information.
In Cuyahoga County, visit: https://cjfs.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/PRC.aspx and click on the COVID-19 Emergency Response link for information about PRC. Applications can be submitted to any of the JFS Neighborhood Family Service Center drop boxes, via email at Cuy-PRC-Application@jfs.ohio.gov, or by fax at (216) 987-8655. For questions, call the PRC Information Line at (216) 987-7392 and leave a message and allow 48 hours for a response. You can also apply for PRC by calling the United Way at (216) 436-2000 or Ohio Benefits at 844-640-6446.
I’m a veteran with a VA overpayment and/or medical debt which I have to repay or is being deducted from my VA benefits and/or Social Security benefits. Can I ask the VA to stop collection of this debt?
As of April 3rd, the VA has suspended collection of debts which are currently being deducted from benefits by the Treasury Department, including any deductions made from your Social Security benefits for medical or VA benefit debts. You should not have to ask that the collection cease. The VA is also suspending collection or extending repayment terms for all VA benefit debts collected through the VA’s Debt Management Center. You should contact the VA Debt Management Center at 1-800-827-0648 to ask that the debt be suspended or for a lower monthly payment. For health care debts, Veterans can contact the Health Resource Center at 1-888-827-4817 to ask that collection be suspended or for lower monthly payments.
For more information on Public Benefits during COVID-19, please see these related FAQs:
What are Tenants’ Rights during COVID-19?
Can I be evicted during COVID-19?
Eviction cases can still be filed and move forward in Ohio. However, many courts in northeast Ohio have temporarily stopped allowing evictions to be filed or cancelled scheduled eviction hearings. To find out if your court has stopped evictions, visit the court’s website or click here. If you have a court date or deadline coming up, call the court directly to find out if evictions are currently stopped and how long they will be postponed. Court policies change frequently.
What properties are covered by the federal law delaying evictions?
Federal law prevents landlords at some properties from filing an eviction at this time. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) prevents a landlord from evicting a tenant from a property subsidized by the Federal government. This includes all residents in the following properties:
- public housing,
- buildings receiving Section 8 rental assistance vouchers or subsidies,
- buildings receiving USDA rental housing assistance,
- buildings that receive Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
- where the owner has a loan backed by the FHA, USDA, VA, or Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Owners of these properties cannot file eviction until after July 25, 2020. After July 25, 2020, these owners must serve a tenant with a notice to vacate the property thirty (30) days before an eviction can be filed. Then, the owner must still give the tenant a 3-day notice.
Do I still have to pay my rent?
Yes. Even if evictions are temporarily stopped in your area, you are still responsible for paying your rent. If you are unable to pay your rent, you should contact your landlord and ask if your landlord will accept late rent. If your landlord agrees to take rent late, ask your landlord to put the agreement in writing. A text message from your landlord is good enough. But, be sure to screenshot the message and save it on a computer, email it to yourself or send it to another electronic database so you can get it even if you no longer have your phone.
Where can I get rent assistance?
If you are unable to pay your rent, you may be eligible to receive rent assistance. You should tell your landlord that you are not able to pay your rent, but that you are looking for rent assistance. Call 211 (available 24 hours a day) or go online to 211oh.org and use the chat feature. You can also call the Tenant Information Line at (440) 210-4533 or (216) 861-5955.
Can my landlord shut off my utilities or lock me out of my property if I am unable to pay my rent?
No. The only way a landlord can force you to leave the property is by filing an eviction and getting a court order saying you have to leave. A landlord is not allowed to shut off your utilities or lock you out of your rental property even if you have not paid your rent. If a landlord is changing locks, shutting off utilities or removing your belongings from the rental property during this time you should consider calling law enforcement to report this illegal activity and call Legal Aid for assistance in enforcing your right to remain in the property.
What should I do if I need something repaired during COVID-19?
Landlords are still required to maintain your rental property so that it’s safe for you and your family. If you need something repaired, you should make your request to your landlord in writing and save a copy of the written request. Your landlord should make the repair in a reasonable amount of time, no later than 30 days after you make the request. If your landlord fails to make the repair you’ve requested, you may have the right to pay your rent into the court using the rent escrow process. You can find more information about that process at https://lasclev.org/my-rental-unit-needs-repairs-what-do-i-do/. However, you should contact the court to see if they are allowing tenants to escrow rent under their COVID-19 policies. If the repair is an emergency, like a utility shout off or a condition that impacts your health and safety, the courts may make exceptions to their COVID-19 policies.
Can my landlord refuse to rent to me because someone in my household was sick with coronavirus?
Probably not. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects people with disabilities against discrimination in housing. A person diagnosed with coronavirus is likely a “disabled” person under the FHA. If a tenant is protected by the FHA, then a landlord cannot treat the tenant differently because of the disability, i.e. deny housing they would otherwise provide. Tenants with questions about possible housing discrimination should call The Fair Housing Center at 216.361-9240. Click here for more information about fair housing.
What are Utility Protections during COVID-19?
What can I do if my water is off or if I have a shut off notice during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Effective immediately, during the time of the COVID-19 emergency in Ohio, a public water system shall not disconnect customers’ water due to nonpayment of fees or charges. Customers whose service was disconnected for nonpayment after January 1, 2020 should request reconnection and the public water system shall restore drinking water service as quickly as possible. The customer may not be charged reconnection fees but may be billed for actual usage. This order ends when the emergency ends or on December 1, 2020, whichever is sooner. See the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Order.
Cleveland Water and Cleveland Public Power (CPP) have temporarily stopped disconnection of residential services for non-payment. If you have recently been disconnected for non-payment, please call Cleveland Water at 216.664.3130 or CPP at 216.664.4600.
How do I get home heating assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Ohio has received an extension of the Winter Crisis Program through May 1, and the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) through June 1. The Winter Crisis Program helps income-eligible Ohioans maintain their utility service, while HEAP provides eligible Ohioans assistance with home energy bills through a one-time benefit applied directly to their bill.
You can now apply for these programs over the phone. Visit EnergyHelp.Ohio.gov for more information or call 1 (800) 282-0880 to begin your application.
Is the PUCO Winter Reconnect Order going to be extended during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) extended its winter reconnect order through May 1, 2020. The Winter Reconnect Order helps Ohioans reconnect or maintain electric and natural gas service during the heating season between October 14, 2019 and May 1, 2020. The Commission also noted that PUCO-regulated utilities should review their policies and identify where it may be prudent to suspend, the duration of the emergency, any policies that would impose a service restoration hardship or create an unnecessary risk of human contact. Utility customers who have questions or concerns regarding their utility service are encouraged to contact the PUCO online.
What are Worker Rights and Benefits during COVID-19?
Has unemployment eligibility expanded during COVID-19?
Unemployment eligibility has expanded during COVID-19. Workers who lose employment as a result of COVID 19 may qualify for benefits immediately. See details about the expanded eligibility at here. You can apply online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at http://unemployment.ohio.gov. Click here for FAQs about unemployment insurance benefits from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Has there been an expansion of sick/medical leave during COVID-19?
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act goes into effect on April 2, 2020 and ends on December 31, 2020. The act includes an Emergency Expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act (EEFMLA), Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act, and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (PSLA). To read a summary of the key provisions, click here. To read the full act, click here.
For more information on Worker Rights and Benefits during COVID-19, please see these related FAQs:
How to Apply For Legal Help During COVID-19
Starting March 17, Legal Aid will only do new client intake online and via phone.
Those needing civil legal assistance can apply online 24/7 at www.lasclev.org or weekdays by calling 888-817-3777. Those with non-legal questions related to landlord-tenant and other rental issues can also call our Tenant Information Line at 216-861-5955 (Cuyahoga) or 440-210-4533 (Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Lorain Counties).
Offices in Cleveland, Elyria, Painesville and Jefferson are closed and walk-in intake is suspended until further notice. All Legal Aid staff will be working remotely to help our clients in need. Current clients should continue to work with their attorneys and anticipate handling matters by phone and electronically to the extent possible.
Pro Bono Attorney Help Needed!
The coronavirus pandemic expanded Legal Aid’s client-eligible population literally overnight. Legal Aid’s 52 staff attorneys need the help of private lawyer volunteers during this time of great need.
Are you an attorney and want to volunteer right away? Click here to see a list of current, available cases for you to handle.
Are you interested in helping with future “virtual clinics,” brief advice over the phone, or with other projects? Please click here to fill out a form and show your interest.
As always, Legal Aid attorneys will provide full support for volunteers – including, but not limited to, malpractice insurance, litigation support, mentoring, and training.
from WKSU: As Pandemic Moratoriums on Evictions End, Worries Start
As moratoriums on evictions put in place during the coronavirus pandemic expire and evictions kick back in, people who rent are facing a whole new set of challenges, brought on by a global pandemic and increased housing instability. As part of our Informed Communities project looking at evictions, we take a closer look at some of the challenges and the help that’s available.
When Akron resident Jeannie Vashaw’s fiance lost his job at a heating and cooling company and their family lost their main source of income, she figured the front office of the company managing her townhome would understand the unusual circumstances behind their late rent.
“She goes ‘you know, it’s ok there’s other people calling in, take care of you and the kids, make sure everyone’s healthy, and everything will be fine.’ …and ten days later I’m getting a notice on my door and I’m being evicted.”
While Vashaw had been late on rent before in the three years she’s been living there, the office had always been cooperative, and she would always pay her late fees.
“I don’t know if this (COVID-19) scared them, or ‘oh you know, the coronavirus is gonna stop them from going to work and they can’t live here for free.’ And then boom. I get it on my door.”
It took Vashaw and her family over six weeks to get unemployment benefits as well as the economic impact payment that was part of the CARES Act. In the meantime, the management company at her townhome kept redirecting her to their attorney.
He suggested that maybe she should find someplace else to live. She says if she could find something else, she wouldn’t be there in the first place.
“Considering the circumstances of the situation, I wish he was a little more helpful.”
The way forward
Eventually, Vashaw discovered Community Legal Aid through searching the internet. They were able to connect her to an attorney who provided research and information that helped Vashaw find the right way forward and avoid an eviction.
“He gave me information, unlike their attorney.”
While Akron has Community Legal Aid, Cleveland has something similar called the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. As an attorney there, Abigail Staudt (Stout) understands the concerns around evictions happening during a pandemic.
“It’s wrong to potentially cause someone to have unstable housing. It’s wrong that somebody might have to move in with friends or family during this time when we really want people to be socially isolated, and we see that people living in close proximity to each other is what is most likely to have higher rates of transmission.”
Despite the ongoing pandemic, a federal moratorium on evictions has expired and some landlords can once again evict a tenant if they are behind on their rent.
Staudt says The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is mainly seeing two types of cases right now–families who have lost their source of income and can’t afford rent and fees, and those who have had a family member get sick with COVID-19.
“It’s a terrible situation for a family to be in–to have sick household members and having to pack up and move and not knowing where they may be able to go during this crisis period of time.”
The assistance that’s available
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland covers five counties. It’s able to refer people to rent assistance agencies. Groups in the Cleveland area like CHN Housing Partnersand Eden Inc. received federal funding through the CARES Act to supplement rent assistance.
Staudt says the Ohio Department of Child and Family Services also offers something called a PRC Program, a prevention, retention and contingency program that is now providing additional assistance because of COVID.
“So even if a family had received some assistance earlier this year that was non-COVID related they are still eligible for additional assistance.”
Tenants in Cleveland who are at or below the 100% federal poverty guideline and have at least one child in the household have a right to legal counsel in these eviction cases, thanks to an ordinance passed in October 2019. Staudt says it was recently implemented coinciding with the reopening of courts on July 1st.
“I think that it’s a really, really critical timing for this to be happening, in part because of all of these housing issues colliding at the same time as Covid, and also this additional rent assistance that’s available to support continued housing stability.”
Whether physically at an in-person court hearing or on a virtual Zoom call, having an attorney with you can alleviate some of the stress when you’re facing eviction.
Though no such ordinance has passed in Akron where Jeannie Vashaw and her family live, she has been able to fight the fees and get back on her feet with a new part-time job, though she’s not feeling optimistic about future evictions.
“Like I said, you know, we’re still trying to play the catch-up game. I just hope it doesn’t happen again, and I know it will in the Fall time, and I know we’re gonna be in the same boat as we were.”
Vashaw knows that next time, if it does happen again she’ll take it to court, and that’s what she’s preparing for.
from Spectrum News 1: Rent Increasingly Out of Reach for Ohioans
Ohio tenants are increasingly unable to afford their rent, and while the pandemic has amplified it, managing attorney at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Abigail Staudt said this problem isn’t new.
“Even before COVID-19 hit, we had an affordable housing crisis,” Staudt said. “The reality is that way more people are paying more than 30 percent of their income towards their rent, which is how you measure what affordability is. It’s more like most people are paying closer to 50 percent of their income towards their housing.”
A report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows in order to afford a two-bedroom home, Ohio renters need to make a wage of $15.99 per hour. If they make minimum wage, they would need to work 74 hours per week.
“Our economy hasn’t quite picked up yet, and so, while there is some unemployment help, some federal stimulus help, that’s not forever. And it may not be adequate to meet the rent needs” said Staudt.
Cleveland launched a program to help tenants during the pandemic. Eligible applicants may receive as much as three months of rental assistance paid directly to the landlord.
“The rental assistance program is intended to alleviate the burden on Clevelanders needing assistance as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said in a statement. “It is our intent that this assistance helps ease renters’ worries by providing resources during these stressful and uncertain times.”
Staudt recommends communicating with your landlord if you feel that you can’t make your rent payment.
“We really recommend if you can tell them in advance that you’re going to have trouble paying for your rent,” Staudt said. “Keep the communication open with your landlord, your landlord can be an advocate in helping identify rent assistance they may know of some resources.”
For help go to neorenthelp.org.
from ideastream: Housing Advocates Anticipating More Eviction Filings As Benefits Expire
Housing advocates are working to connect Cleveland residents facing eviction with resources and legal representation as courts continue hearings.
The Legal Aid Society has helped about 29 people facing eviction since launching Cleveland’s Right to Counsel initiative last month, according to managing attorney Abigail Staudt.
The pandemic has exacerbated the existing crisis in housing affordability across the city, Staudt said.
“We now are facing a much larger number of people that are housing unstable,” she said, “and many of those folks had stable income, stable jobs, hadn’t faced evictions before.”
Under the Right to Counsel program, low-income residents with at least one child can receive free legal representation from during eviction proceedings. The housing court communicates the options to residents facing eviction, Staudt said, and can grant a continuance to those who ask to enroll at their initial hearing.
“Our first priority is to assess the case, assign a case to an attorney, identify the amount owed and what rent assistance program would be most suitable for that tenant,” Staudt said.
Those arrangements often must be made within a few days, she said.
“We’re scrambling in many cases, which we anticipated, because there are a number of cases where the tenant doesn’t come to us until a day or two before their hearing,” Staudt said, “or they’ve gone to the court, and the court has granted them a continuance to seek Legal Aid’s assistance.”
A majority of the cases the Legal Aid Society has helped with were the result of tenants struggling to pay rent during the pandemic, Staudt said.
“It’s pretty typical for an eviction to be based on non-payment of rent when there isn’t a pandemic,” Staudt said. “Now that we have a pandemic, it’s even more prevalent.”
Local housing courts saw a spike of eviction filings when they began reopening in June, Staudt said, though it was lower than expected after the months-long moratorium. Case numbers leveled out to normal rates after a few days, Staudt said, but she anticipates more cases are forthcoming.
“We sort of are anticipating another spike in evictions, and it might be a slow spike but I do think they’re going to go up,” Staudt said, particularly as additional unemployment and other CARES Act protections expire.
“Knowing the number of people who are unemployed and how slow our economy is still, I just don’t see how we can deal with the number of people who are housing unstable and facing eviction during the pandemic,” Staudt said.
from Cleveland Magazine: Helping Renters Stay Home
Right to Counsel-Cleveland provides access to free legal counsel to eligible renters living at or below the federal poverty line with at least one minor child in the home. In September, Cleveland City Council passed legislation mandating this access.
According to a 2019 study conducted at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), 60 percent of the approximately 9,000 evictions filed each year in Cleveland are households with children. Among the eviction hearings included in the study, only 1 percent of tenants had attorneys compared to nearly 66 percent of landlords.
Right to Counsel-Cleveland addresses this disparity. It is based on a model that has proven successful in other U.S. cities. In New York City, for example, 84 percent of the renters with a Right to Counsel attorney were able to stay in their homes during 2018.
The initiative is part of United Way’s Impact Institute, a new branch of the organization that its leaders refer to as “a think tank with an action plan.”
Nancy Mendez, vice president of community impact, says the timing of the rollout is fortunate because of the uptick in evictions due to job loss caused by COVID-19. She says the economic downturn has been especially devastating to Cleveland’s renters.
“Eviction triggers a black hole of poverty — people go deeper and deeper into the poverty hole,” says Mendez. “Unstable housing can lead to homelessness, which impacts school attendance, health and life quality outcomes for children and families.”
She points out that the CWRU study also found that children whose families get evicted have a school absence rate of 30 percent — much higher than Ohio’s definition of “chronic absence,” which is 10 percent.
Mendez says that landlords who struggle financially when rent payments are missed can also benefit from the chance to resolve disputes with their renters.
“Different boat — same storm,” she says. “A large number of the landlords are mom-and-pop renters who would rather retain their current tenants than go through court and then have to find new tenants.”
Abigail Staudt, managing attorney of Legal Aid’s Housing Law Practice, explains how her team will connect with clients.
“When an eviction is filed by a landlord, a summons goes to the tenant with the complaint,” she says. “There will be an insert telling the renter that you may be eligible for representation and to call Legal Aid. If potential clients are determined eligible, they will be assigned an attorney.”
Staudt anticipates high demand moving forward, especially because there was already a backlog of about 1,000 cases when the courts reopened in June.
“It comes down to so many variables — the relationship between tenant and landlord is a big one,” she says. “Communication is a large factor, but there are so many factors.”
Whatever comes its way, Staudt says that Legal Aid is ready. The company has hired five new attorneys and moved some of its current staff to the Right to Counsel team. In turn, United Way also has hired a staff person to manage its portion of the program and work with Legal Aid and the courts.
With $3 million already committed to the effort by United Way, the partners still need to secure an additional $4 million for the program’s projected $7 million price tag.
In addition to raising money, United Way also is charged with community education and helping connect tenants with so-called wraparound services, such as assistance with food and utilities. Data collection and evaluation also will be an important part of United Way’s role.
“The best way we can attract new dollars is to evaluate and show our concrete results — a return on investment,” explains Mendez.
Housing Stability is a priority for United Way’s Impact Institute. To that end, the team is a major collaborator in the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition, which is another large public-private partnership. The goal of this effort is to identify aging homes in Cleveland where children are at risk of inhaling or ingesting toxic lead. This exposure can cause developmental, learning and behavior problems, just to name a few. Violators will be required to make improvements and show that the home meets lead-safe standards by 2023.
The Impact Institute is rolling out other projects aimed at tackling the root causes of poverty, as well. Mendez says that health care and education-related efforts are in the works.
“For many years, United Way did responsive grant making, which addressed the symptoms of poverty,” she says. “But through needs assessments, we could see that things like poverty and unemployment didn’t change. If we want to disrupt and break the cycle of poverty, we need to take risks and do things in a different way. We must change our model.”
That model evolved into the Impact Institute, which was established to take a more strategic approach to achieving these far-reaching goals.
“While we are not walking away from the basic needs like providing food, we can’t make change by just funding symptoms of poverty,” she adds. “The Impact Institute will address the reasons why families are stuck in this cycle.”
Mendez says United Way will continue to look to proven models like Right to Counsel and to forming other collaborative opportunities that maximize limited resources.
Legal Aid’s Staudt also expects to see positive change from the Right to Counsel program.
“This is a huge step for Cleveland,” she says. “The timing is incredible given COVID-19. We expect to help a lot of people remain stably housed because of it.”
from Crain’s Cleveland Business: Legal aid providers, already stretched thin, anticipate surge in evictions and requests for help
Unemployment levels remain high. The $600 unemployment bonus is set to end in July. Courts have largely reopened, and eviction moratoriums are evaporating — in fact, eviction filings, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, have already rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in some places.
For legal aid groups, this is writing on the wall pointing to a heavy upcoming level of need as struggling Americans trying to make ends meet lose the safety nets they’ve had the past few months to stay in their homes and protect their credit.
Always stretched thin, legal aid groups — like the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and Community Legal Aid in Akron — continuously face tough decisions of who to help and who to turn away because of finite resources. The requests for help have only picked up in recent months, and the situation could become even more dire in the future.
That’s why the Legal Services Corp. (LSC), the national nonprofit that funds legal aid providers across the country, is asking Congress for an additional $100 million in emergency funds to help groups like those in Northeast Ohio help those in need.
A recent survey of LSC organizations serving low- and moderate-income communities found that 97% of grantees are anticipating a surge in need for legal help in the coming weeks. Those needs could be most acute in the areas of eviction, foreclosures, unemployment assistance and appeals, consumer debt and income maintenance.
Meanwhile, 94% of respondents report seeing requests for help from people newly eligible for legal aid assistance (i.e. being within 125% of federal poverty guidelines). On average, grantees are reporting a nearly 18% increase of eligible clients as a result of the pandemic.
“The survey responses confirm that the pandemic and its economic consequences are causing or will cause a spike in legal needs in areas such as evictions, unemployment claims and domestic violence,” said LSC president Ronald Flagg in a statement. “America’s legal aid programs are responding innovatively to meet those needs while providing their services remotely and while facing state and local funding cuts.”
The legal aid groups in Cleveland and Akron received about $350,000 and $307,000 in grants from the LSC earlier this year, respectively, as a result of the CARES Act. That money was used to upgrade technology to enable better and more reliable remote service for clients and to hire more attorneys and some support staff.
If LSC secures additional funding, both groups could see grants of roughly double those previous amounts. That money would cover the hiring of additional staff attorneys to address the coming need.
“There is no question what’s happening in our community is playing out in the low-income community with a lot of people who find themselves newly poor because of the economic crisis that’s happening,” said Steven McGarrity, executive director for Community Legal Aid. “There are a lot of issues people face in housing and public assistance, and the best remedy to get them what they need is through the help of a lawyer. And the people in this community who can do that are with the local legal aid organizations.”
Community Legal Aid has already pivoted to help individuals in certain areas, like in eviction and unemployment benefits. The group has stopped accepting asks for help related to divorce, for example — with the exception of those related to domestic violence.
Between May 1 and July 15, requests related to unemployment compensation have surged 400%. Staff have been redirected to work on those cases, which include securing the $1,200 government stimulus payments for low-income individuals who didn’t file tax returns.
The eviction situation, though, is one where “we’re terrified of what’s coming,” McGarrity said.
That’s something Colleen Cotter, executive director for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, is equally fretting about. Requests for assistance in landlord/tenant issues is up 25% compared to last July, she said, and undoubtedly will climb. Requests for work-related issues, like unemployment, are up 46% over last year.
“The economic impact of the pandemic is hitting people in poverty and those living paycheck to paycheck with particular ferocity,” Cotter said. “Legal aid is adding capacity to meet the increased need in related legal issues, but the demand is pretty overwhelming.”
That extra money from the LSC, by the way, is not necessarily a straight increase in funding — it’s largely replacing some lost capital even as community support keeps individual donations coming in.
This is because of the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation, which helps fund legal aid groups in the state with interest generated from lawyer trust accounts. Because of the drop in federal interest rates, which are likely to stay at rock bottom for the foreseeable future, that funding has diminished.
Community Legal Aid, for example, is expecting about 18% less (roughly $400,000) of its previous $2.2 million allocation.
“Any extra money is really compensating us for that loss of revenue we are anticipating,” McGarrity said.
The LSC has submitted a request to Congress for $100 million in emergency funds to enable grantees to provide additional assistance as result of the pandemic. The CARES Act included $50 million for LSC. In May, the House passed the HEROES Act, which includes an additional $50 million for LSC; the Senate is discussing the next legislation to address the impact of COVID-19.
Go here to learn more about the LSC survey and its campaign for additional funding.
from Cleveland.com: Expanding public assistance programs will help get us through the pandemic and speed recovery: Katie Feldman and Deborah Dallmann
Ohio was early to close schools, restaurants, and nonessential businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the virus is still a major threat, and the economy may not fully recover until we have a vaccine. In the span of one month this spring, 855,197 Ohioans had submitted new unemployment applications. Families that can’t afford rent are doubling and tripling up in homes at a time when social distancing is advised for all of our health.
This is why social safety net programs are vital: We need them to safeguard the efficacy of the public health response. Beyond that, these programs address the most basic of human needs; they ensure that people can eat, get their medicine, and have a roof over their heads. Examples of such programs include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps); Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); Medicaid; and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
While there is no doubt that state and local budgets are facing challenges, it is important that the most vulnerable among us do not bear the brunt of this economic crisis.
Some issues to consider:
Avoid Medicaid cuts: Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced that the state’s Medicaid budget would be cut, but gave no clear indication as to where the cuts would come from. It is hard to believe that this reduction in spending on health care will not result in inadequate care or inaccessible treatment. The pandemic’s economic impact expanded the pool of Medicaid-eligible Ohioans. And given a global health crisis and the racial health inequities it has laid bare, further cuts to Medicaid are inconceivable.
Make use of PRC funds: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal program that has been administered through public assistance block grants to the states since 1996. Ohio receives $727 million per year, and matches those funds with more than $400 million in state dollars. A portion of TANF funds is designated to be used for Prevention, Retention, and Contingency (PRC) programs, which are designed to address emergent, one-time costs that will help families regain economic stability.
COVID-19 has created the exact circumstances PRC funds were designed to address. Accordingly, states have funneled more TANF dollars into PRC funds and are making these funds available to people in need. In Ohio, each county received an amount of PRC funds to distribute to residents who qualify. Just 24 hours after Franklin County began offering one-time $500 assistance checks, all of the money had been exhausted. Hamilton County also expended its $3 million in the first day funds were available.
Cuyahoga County received $1.6 million in emergency PRC funds; these have not been distributed as quickly, and the need certainly persists.
Don’t wait to act: From our front line at Legal Aid, we see the urgency. A recent client, “Laurie,” lives in private housing with her three sons. To pay rent, Laurie uses cash assistance from Ohio Works First, and her son “Danny” helps cover the rest with his income from working for a food delivery service. Unfortunately, Danny’s income dipped dramatically due to the pandemic, and the family has been unable to pay rent. Worried about an eviction, Laurie got help from Legal Aid and applied for three months of rent assistance. Legal Aid negotiated with Laurie’s landlord, who agreed to accept the late rent and not evict her.
As these eviction and utility moratoriums are lifted, people like Laurie will suddenly face the prospect of losing their home, running water, or electricity.
Ohio’s low-income families made tremendous sacrifices as the state took measures to flatten the coronavirus curve. Now, by shoring up public assistance programs to address the long-term economic fallout of this pandemic, Ohio can take purposeful steps to alleviate their burden.
Timely action to extend fundamental economic assistance will help stabilize families, bolster the local economy, and ensure the ultimate success of our state’s public health strategy.
from The New York Times: 10 Steps to Take to Try to Prevent Your Own Eviction
If you have a mortgage and can’t afford to pay it because of fallout from the coronavirus, you may be able to push off your payments for several months, or even into next year. But if you’re struggling to pay your rent, your options are probably much more limited.
Local, state and federal governments have laid out a patchwork of programs to pause certain eviction proceedings, but some of those have already expired — and one eviction protection component set out in the CARES Act is scheduled to expire by July 25.
Without continued regional action or new help from Congress, a spike in evictions may soon be upon us. The Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project in Denver estimates that between 19 million and 23 million — one in five of the 110 million Americans who live in rental housing — are at risk of eviction by the end of September.
But as harrowing as eviction is, it’s a process that plays out over weeks, at a minimum. And at nearly every point along the way, it may be possible to stop it.
If you’re having trouble paying your rent, your situation might feel hopeless. It may not be — and experts have these suggestions for what to know and what to do.
If you’ve lost your job or part of your income, your instinct may be to avoid your landlord. But it’s probably better to make contact and explain what’s going on.
“In a couple of groups I’ve been part of where landlords have been present, they’ve complained that they’ve reached out to tenants and aren’t getting responses,” said Abigail Staudt, managing attorney of the housing practice at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. “Many of them — not all — are compassionate and are ready and willing to work with tenants.”
If you’re going to pay late, not pay in full or pay nothing, landlords will find that out soon enough anyway, she added. Being upfront might pay off later.
Don’t Just Leave
Often, tenants receive that first notice from a landlord, assume that there is no fixing the problem, and decide that they should pack up and move. “People often confuse the first step in the process with the last step,” said Zach Neumann, founder of the Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project.
In fact, in most areas, you don’t have to move until there has been some sort of legal finding against you and an officer of the law arrives to carry out any order of eviction. That means there may be time for you to figure out a solution that doesn’t require you to move at all.
Get Legal Help
You probably do not have the right to a lawyer if a landlord brings an eviction action against you (although there are a few notable exceptions, like in San Francisco and for some families in Cleveland). But you can retain one anyway, and possibly for little cost.
Merely retaining a lawyer may make landlords more likely to negotiate. That’s because it could signal that their own legal fees are about to go up. A number of reports have pointed to improved (or at least non-worst-case-scenario) outcomes for tenants who have counsel.
Even if you’re not able to fend off eviction, Ms. Staudt said, a lawyer may be able to negotiate more time for you to find a new place.
Consider the Landlord
The company or person tacking notices to your door does not inspire much sympathy. Still, landlords have to pay utilities, taxes, maintenance and insurance, too.
And this is one of the few areas of consumer life where you alone may be the source of a significant percentage of someone else’s income.
It might help in any communication to acknowledge this. Small-scale landlords own more than half the housing stock that rents for less than $750 per month, noted Whitney Airgood-Obrycki, research associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. If they go into foreclosure or have to sell, even less sympathetic owners might replace them.
“If we lose them, we risk losing a big source of affordable housing,” she said. Perhaps if you acknowledge your own landlord’s contribution in this way (and your desire to keep landlords solvent, if your own seems to be in jeopardy), you could get a more sympathetic ear.
Make an Offer
You do not get what you do not ask for. So talk to your landlord. There are different ways to reduce your costs: waiving rent, reducing rent or using a security deposit in lieu of your payment.
A survey by Apartment List, the real estate listing site, found a bit of decent news. As of June, 39 percent of people not paying rent in full reported that their landlord had made some kind of concession. That figure had fallen from 45 percent in April, but it’s still worth asking for new terms.
Review the Rules
Depending where you live and the details of the mortgage for the property you occupy, you might be protected from eviction, at least for now. Some landlords who have themselves put their mortgages into forbearance cannot evict tenants while they’re also skipping payments.
A database of addresses that the National Low Income Housing Coalition created may help some renters figure out if their landlord must comply with the various federal rules. This is another area where a lawyer can help, since the rules can be complicated and some landlords don’t know them — or ignore them.
Emily Benfer, a law professor at Wake Forest School of Law, has also assembled a large amount of helpful information on local actions, with the help of many law and public health students. It’s collected in a publicly available Google spreadsheet.
Seek Outside Help
Rental assistance programs exist, although high demand has depleted some of them.
Still, it’s worth seeking the help out if you need it. The National Low Income Housing Coalition maintains a list of programs on its website.
Also, keep checking back. Any new federal relief bill could provide additional money.
Don’t Just Leave, Part 2
He suggested a couple of tactics. First, make a plan for where you might go if you lose your housing. Ask family and friends for help well ahead of time.
Then stay in your current home as long as you legally can. “You might as well wait for the sheriff to come and force you out,” he said.
Watch for Changes
Nobody knows what will happen in Washington. Many lawmakers agree that another relief package is necessary, but what it will look like and when it will arrive are anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, tenants should pay as much as they can for as long as they can — and cross their fingers that more help arrives, said Norrinda Brown Hayat, associate clinical professor of law at the Newark campus of Rutgers School of Law.
“Everything is ‘If, then, but,’” she said. “People want to have certainty, but there is none. We just don’t have it yet.”
Watch Out for One Another
Jaffe S. Pickett, executive director of Florida Rural Legal Services, said collecting yourself and responding quickly to the threat of eviction isn’t easy, given everything that renters may be up against right now.
“People are coming home from one job, trying to get the kids to Grandma’s,” she said. “With schools and summer programs closed, it all becomes more of a burden.”
This pandemic compounds poverty or causes it outright. If you know someone is in trouble, try to help that person head it off as quickly as possible.
from Cleveland.com: Cleveland man evicted by Housing Court, lawyer says she never received link to virtual Zoom hearing
The Cleveland Housing Court ordered the eviction of a man from his St. Clair-Superior apartment after neither he nor his attorney showed up for their online hearing. The attorney insists she never received the link from court staff to appear.
Frank Reda and his lawyer Alisa Boles were required to appear for a June 26 hearing held on video chat service Zoom. Reda’s landlord on March 10 filed to have his tenant evicted after he said Reda didn’t pay his $385-a-month rent since January for his apartment on East 72nd Street.
Boles, a Euclid lawyer who started representing Reda in April after the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland referred the case to her, said she previously emailed the court about another matter in her client’s case. However, she said she received nothing on how to access the Zoom conference.
A magistrate held the hearing without them and ordered Reda evicted. Housing Court Judge W. Moná Scott later signed off.
Court records show the eviction is scheduled for July 13. Reda, 58, found out about the order from his lawyer on Monday. She had not yet received anything in the mail about the decision and said she only found out because she checked the online docket.
Reda and Boles’ troubles highlight the difficulties parties face in eviction cases as the Housing Court, which is the largest in Cuyahoga County, continues to hear cases while also making accommodations to protect people from the coronavirus. Housing advocates have feared a flood of eviction cases will come because people lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and that technical problems will hamper hearings and result in people wrongly losing their homes.
In eviction cases in the county, a large number of tenants often defend themselves with no lawyers. Boles wondered how the average tenant facing eviction, who is often poor and may not have adequate access to technology, would handle a similar situation.
“If this happened to a lawyer who is reasonably tech-savvy, I mean, how is this affecting the average person?” Boles asked.
“Who doesn’t have a lawyer,” Reda said, finishing his attorneys’ sentence as he spoke with her Tuesday outside his apartment.
A disabled construction worker, he said he doesn’t know where he’s going to go if he has to leave.
“It makes me feel like I’ve gotten beat up with my hands tied up,” Reda said. He said he was hospitalized several times in recent months for problems associated with a brain injury and other ailments. He wears a brace on his left leg and is missing part of a finger.
He has said he has defenses he wants to present to the court. He acknowledged, though, that the eviction order may have resulted from a misunderstanding. Boles filed motions on Tuesday to put the eviction on hold, and they await a ruling.
Scott’s bailiff Belinda Gest said in an email Wednesday the court could not provide details about a pending case but noted that Reda filed motions to halt the eviction and re-open the case and that the judge will review them.
The Cleveland Housing Court stopped accepting and hearing most eviction cases in March as more businesses and government offices closed down because of the coronavirus. It resumed its operations June 15 and holds most eviction hearings via Zoom, something many other courts are doing across the country.
However, local advocates such as the Legal Aid Society have expressed concern about the hearings, both in terms of ensuring that tenants can access them to defend themselves and because holding them via Zoom doesn’t guarantee the public can watch the hearings.
Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer previously wrote about how the Housing Court magistrates are effectively conducting hearings in private because they’re set up as closed meetings. While the court’s website mentions the ability for individual reporters and members of the public to watch, Scott said last month that staff was working on a way for the public to more easily view the proceedings.
Legal Aid Development and Communications Director Melanie Shakarian said the organization heard from two other people ordered evicted after they had technical difficulties and could not appear for a hearing.
Legal Aid Managing Attorney Abigail Staudt said in an email that summonses sent to tenants facing eviction say that they must provide an email address and phone number in an email to the Housing Court. The email must include a full name and case number in the subject line. Staff will then send instructions on how to participate in the virtual hearing.
However, the online docket does not include any information about Zoom. It also doesn’t always reflect that a hearing will be “virtual” or that court officials sent login information to the landlord and tenant, Staudt noted. There also isn’t a lot of information on the Housing Court’s website to help parties navigate virtual hearings, she said.
Reda’s summons sent on March 11 for a hearing, then set for March 31, had no such instructions because the hearing was set before the coronavirus-motivated shutdown. It ordered him to appear in person. Still, the docket indicates that the summons never reached Reda, as the envelope went undelivered.
A June 4 magistrate’s order resetting his hearing for June 19, this time to be held virtually, said the parties must contact the clerk of court’s housing division at least a week prior and provide an email or phone number.
“Failure to call/log in on time pursuant to this Order, is a failure to appear, and may result in dismissal of the failing party’s claims, immediate hearing of the opposing party’s claims, default judgment or other appropriate sanctions,” the order stated.
Reda said he was a “dinosaur” with his phone and made clear he was relying on his lawyer’s technological knowledge to attend the hearing.
Boles – who took Reda’s case pro bono, or free of charge – said she sent an email on June 5 with a motion asking the court to postpone the June 19 hearing because of a planned vacation. The subject line had Reda’s name and the case number, as well as the words “MOTION FOR CONTINUANCE.”
She also wrote in the email that “regarding yesterday’s order requesting an email address, you can use this email, which is the email on file with this case.”
A staff member responded 11 days later and said Boles needed to come to the Justice Center to file the motion in person. She did, and the court pushed the hearing back a week.
She made sure she was by a computer at 10 a.m. June 26, so she could still show up to the virtual hearing. She was still on vacation with her son and in a Conestoga wagon fashioned into a hotel room in Torrey, Utah, near Capitol Reef National Park. It was 8 a.m. there and she said she had a Wi-Fi connection.
She said she never received an email with a Zoom link before that day and figured it must arrive around the time of the hearing. There was another complication, too: her client, who was going to appear by phone, was in the hospital. She planned to ask the magistrate during the hearing to push the proceedings back.
At 10:03 a.m. eastern time that day, Boles sent an email to the court staff that said, “standing by for Zoom link. I don’t think I have phone reception. At any rate, Mr. Reda is in hospital and cannot attend.”
She waited for more than an hour. At 11:27 a.m., she wrote to the Housing Court email and said, “I stood by an hour and a half. I will have spotty phone reception and internet at best the rest of the day. Please reschedule for after the holiday.”
Ten minutes later, staff members responded to both emails saying they were forwarded to the magistrate, David Roberts, and he would decide how to proceed.
Meanwhile, the hearing went forward with the landlord, Kodjo Tino Adognravi, present. Roberts said there was enough evidence to order Reda evicted.
Adognravi, reached Wednesday, confirmed he attended the hearing. When asked to clarify how he obtained access, he told a reporter that “at this point, I’m going to stop this communication. Thank you.” He then hung up.
Roberts referred a reporter to Scott’s bailiff.
Helping the helpless
Looking back, Boles felt like “I’m trying to help somebody, and this is not happening,” she said.
Shakarian, of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, acknowledged that the pandemic had caused many issues and that virtual hearings are new territory.
She and Boles, however, said the court should find ways to make sure that tenants have access before the eviction hearing, such as through pre-trial proceedings that could present opportunities for them to apply for rental assistance or to enter mediation.
“We know that the court is aware of the difficulties of this right now, and we want to offer some constructive possible solutions,” Shakarian said.
To Reda, though, it’s just the latest in a string of bad luck.
“I seem to have a target on my back,” he said.
from Cleveland 19 News: Single mother in Elyria scrambling to pay rent so she isn’t evicted in the middle of the pandemic
Imagine being kicked out of your home and suddenly you are forced to live in the streets during this pandemic. Unfortunately, that will be the sad reality for millions of Americans as eviction moratoriums expire.
In Ohio, more than half a million people could not afford to pay their rent last month.
“It’s really a helpless feeling when you’re a mother and you can’t do anything. It’s like: ‘Jesus, like, what am I supposed to do,‘” said Deja Griffin.
Griffin, 28, wakes up every morning with a feeling of dread because she knows the clock is ticking.
“Every day it’s not like, oh, wake up, it’s a beautiful day,” Griffin said. “It’s like oh my gosh, it’s another day gone instead of 13 days. I have 12 days now. Everyday it’s like I gotta figure out how I’m gonna be able to keep my residence.”
Griffin, a single mother, has just a few days to pay the rent or she and her 1-year-old son will be homeless.
“You’re scrambling to pull money from here and there and try to ask people and you don’t want to be out here begging or put yourself in any unsafe conditions or put yourself in harm’s way to try to provide for your children, so it’s just scary,” she said.
Griffin owes more than $7,000 in rent, but her landlord told her if she paid $5,000 by July 11, they would work out a payment plan for the rest.
“It’s just been accumulating,” Griffin said.
Griffin moved back to Elyria in March after staying with her mother in Georgia. She found a job at Panera Bread, but the day she was supposed to start she got a call telling her not to come in because they were cutting employees due to the pandemic, so she planned on working at Amazon, but then day cares closed and she had no one to watch her son.
“Now I don’t have the funds to even put him in day care a couple weeks to even get my first paycheck to at least get started,” Griffin explained.
For now, Griffin has been living off her tax return. She is not eligible for unemployment since she never actually started her job and she said she never received her stimulus check.
“There’s some of us that have slipped through the cracks and doesn’t have any income at all.”
Griffin is not alone. According to Ohio Census data, one in five people couldn’t afford to pay their rent last month and thousands more are worried they won’t be able to come up with the cash to pay next month’s rent.
“We’re expecting that there will be a huge uptick in evictions and were already starting to see that,” said Abigail Staudt, Managing Attorney of the Housing Group at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
Staudt said while the pandemic has exacerbated the problem of evictions, it’s not a new one, particularly for African Americans.
“I think there’s absolutely a connection between race and racism and what we see happening in our eviction courts,” Staudt said.
Staudt said they commissioned a study by Case Western University in 2019 that found 77% of the people evicted in Cleveland were African American and of those, 78% were women.
“I don’t find it surprising at all,” Griffin said.
The threat of eviction is disproportionately greater for working class people of color like Griffin. According to U.S. Census data about 74% of white families own their homes and only about 44% of Black families and 49% of Latino families do.
Marcus Roth is the Communications and Development Director for the Coalition of Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. Roth worries about what will happen at end of July when the extra $600 a month from the Cares Act expires.
“They probably will largely be able to make August’s rent but come September if Congress doesn’t free up more resources to help tenants maintain a roof over their heads then we are gonna see a wave of evictions and likely homelessness to follow,” Roth said.
Staudt has already noticed an increase. She says once eviction courts opened, they received 25% more calls asking for legal advice and representation.
Some cities and counties in Ohio are offering emergency rental assistance. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County launched a program to help people struggling to make rent payments.
“They’ve got a great head start it’s just that they don’t have the funds they’re gonna need to get through the next who knows, 6 months a year,” Roth said.
Roth and other community advocates are urging the Senate to approve a bill that would allocate $100 billion to emergency rental assistance programs and would extend the eviction and foreclosure moratorium through March 2021. Congress has already passed it. He is also calling on Governor DeWine to invest 137 million dollars of the 4 billion dollars in federal coronavirus relief the state received to create an emergency rental assistance program.
“If the governor acts now and gets the ball rolling on an emergency rental assistance program then once federal funds are allocated we’ll be ahead of the game and we can make sure that the funds are spent effectively and go to the people who need then the most,” Roth said.
In the meantime, the clock is still running out for Griffin and she is afraid of what will happen if she is evicted.
“It’s like I’m really trying to get this money together so we’re not out on the streets and so I don’t have that on my record, Griffin said. “I’m pretty sure other mothers can feel me and understand when things like this happen, we’re not worried about ourselves, we’re worried about our kids.”
19 News did reach out to the property management company that owns Griffin’s apartment but so far, we have not heard back.
from ideastream: Home Ownership Landscape Has Changed; Evictions During Pandemic
We’re under orders to stay home as much as possible, because of the pandemic. But what happens when your landlord evicts you from the house you call yours — for missing the rent?
With unemployment spiking, its’ happening more frequently than you may realize – and it could be about to get much, much worse. We’ll talk with some local experts about the impact, and the options.
And, on The Sound of Ideas, a conversation with a Northeast Ohio native, and real estate writer for the Wall Street Journal. Ryan Dezember once imbedded himself in a story by actually buying a home – which then lost most of its value in the housing crisis. He’ll detail how some people are still renting, because they can’t – or are afraid – to plunge back into homeownership. And about how buying’s become harder – as cash-laden speculators are gobbling up some of Cleveland’s best properties.
-Ryan Dezember, Wall Street Journal Reporter & Author, UNDERWATER: How Our American Dream of Homeownership Became a Nightmare
-Abigail Staudt, Managing Attorney, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
-Nancy Mendez, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way of Greater Cleveland
-Lauren Green-Hull, Associate Director, Fair Housing Contact Service
from The Washington Post: Evictions are likely to skyrocket this summer as jobs remain scarce. Black renters will be hard hit
Meanwhile, enforcement of federal moratoriums on some types of evictions is uneven, with experts warning that judges’ efforts to limit access to courtrooms or hold hearings online because of covid-19 could increasingly leave elderly or poor renters at a disadvantage.
Of the 110 million Americans living in rental households, 20 percent are at risk of eviction by Sept. 30, according to an analysis by the Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project, a Colorado-based community group. African American and Hispanic renters are expected to be hardest hit.
Judge Yvonne Williams, glasses snuggled tight to the blue mask covering most of her face, peered into the camera in her Texas courtroom recently to press a renter about the more than $4,000 she owed her landlord.
“What do you have toward the rent?” Williams asked.
The renter appeared on another shaky screen from a dark room and explained that she had been furloughed as the spread of the novel coronavirus shut down much of the U.S. economy. But she had three kids and nowhere to go, the renter said, and was working to raise the money, which included more than $1,000 in late fees.
“I have heard almost 60 cases so far, and this is everybody’s problem,” Williams responded before approving the eviction.
Like many other aspects of the pandemic and ensuing recession, the evictions are expected to hurt people of color most.
“If you look at the covid pandemic and the health outcomes, the economic outcomes, that is hitting black and brown people very hard,” said Peter Hepburn, a research fellow at Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. “And that is likely to be seen in the housing market as well.”
In response to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, about 44 percent and 41 percent of adult Latino and black renters, respectively, said they had no or slight confidence they could pay their rent next month or were likely to defer payment, according to an Urban Institute analysis of the data, which was collected between May 28 and June 9. About 21 percent of white renters felt the same.
In Milwaukee, where a state eviction moratorium was lifted in late May, the number of eviction filings through June 27 was up 13 percent compared with previous years, according to data collected by the Eviction Lab research group. Nearly 1,300 cases have been filed so far in June. About two-thirds of those cases were filed in majority-black neighborhoods.
“Milwaukee is the future. A lot of these other cities are just beginning to ramp up their capacity to process cases again,” Hepburn said.
Evictions are also beginning to pick up in areas where coronavirus infections have recently spiked, said Diane Yentel, president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
In Texas, for example, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) recently ordered bars to close and restaurants to reduce occupancy after coronavirus cases surged in the state. But the courts remain open in Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city, where more than 2,000 eviction complaints were filed in June, according to January Advisors, a data science consulting firm.
“That wave [of evictions] has already begun. We are trying to prevent it from becoming a tsunami,” Yentel said.
Enforcement left to courts
Exacerbating the crisis, housing advocates say, is that an eviction moratorium covering federally backed mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which includes 30 to 40 percent of renters, is being unevenly enforced, leaving renters to wade through a complicated legal process and at risk of being illegally evicted.
In Travis County, which includes Austin, eviction courts reopened June 2, and soon Williams was hearing the case of the renter who owed more than $4,000. During the hearing, the judge was asked whether the renter might be covered by the moratorium, which doesn’t expire until late July. But Williams shrugged off the question. (The Washington Post viewed the hearing online.)
“I am not familiar with that, but if someone will show me the law on that, I will certainly entertain that,” she responded. “Right now, I am going to give them the eviction … as unfortunate as it is.”
According to a search on Fannie Mae’s website, the building is covered by the moratorium.
Williams said in an interview with The Post that she “misspoke” and always advises renters they can appeal her ruling. She is “very sympathetic when it comes to evictions,” Williams said, but landlords can also be hurt in the process.
A few days after that hearing, Austin announced it would reinstate its local eviction moratorium after Texas coronavirus cases spiked. The evictions Williams had approved are now on hold.
“Part of the problem with these moratoriums is that there is no enforcement. It is up to the courts to know what is required,” said Emily A. Benfer, director of the Health Justice Advocacy Clinic at Columbia Law School, which has been tracking evictions during the pandemic.
Only 15 states require landlords to verify that their buildings aren’t covered by the federal moratorium, leaving it to renters to find out and enforce the law, she said.
Juanita Herrera DeLeon says she told her landlord in April that she wouldn’t be able to pay the nearly $600 monthly rent on her San Antonio apartment after losing her job at a bakery. Herrera DeLeon says she hasn’t received her $1,200 stimulus check and says she gets a busy signal when she calls to apply for unemployment benefits. “We were in lockdown; there was nothing I could do,” she said.
In late April, the landlord placed a “lockout box” on her apartment door while she was in the shower to prevent Herrera DeLeon from reentering her home. Eight hours later, after a flurry of calls to the police and city officials, the box was removed. “It’s been very hard for me,” DeLeon said though tears.
The landlord was alerted in writing that the building was covered by federal eviction moratorium, which was included in the Cares Act, but continued to pursue an eviction against Herrera DeLeon, said her attorney, Christina E. Trejo of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. She eventually filed a restraining order. (The landlord didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.)
“The things that the government has done to help with the pandemic have been great attempts,” including the federal eviction moratorium, Trejo said. But “there is no enforcement mechanism for it, there are no penalties, and it takes a lawyer to file to get any relief. But the poorest of the poor can’t get access to attorneys.”
Local bans weaken
Starwood Capital Group, a large private equity firm, repeatedly pursued the eviction of residents in its apartment buildings after the eviction ban was put in place. On March 30, SCG Atlas Coconut Palm Club, owned by Starwood, filed an eviction complaint against one of its residents in Coconut Creek, Fla., for missing a rent payment, according to court records. Highmark Residential, also owned by Starwood, filed two eviction complaints against residents of Grande Court Apartments in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 30.
In both instances, the buildings had loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, covered by the federal eviction moratorium.
“It’s crazy that a massive landlord like Starwood Capital is evicting people now at a time when people are being asked to stay at home,” said Jim Baker, director of the Private Equity Stakeholder Project.
Starwood, founded by Barry Sternlicht, a member of the panel advising President Trump on reopening the economy, said despite the court filings, none of its 100,000 tenants had been evicted during the moratorium.
“It is possible that a small number of eviction petitions, less than 10, that were already previously in process for nonpayment of rent, might have been filed in error shortly after the March 27, 2020 moratorium went into effect,” the company said in a statement. “However, all of our residential tenants who were at risk of eviction for nonpayment of rent have been allowed to remain in their apartments.”
Federal help for renters has been limited.
A proposal from Democrats to establish a $100 billion rental assistance program passed in the House but hasn’t garnered as much support in the Republican-controlled Senate. Three Democratic senators, including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, introduced legislation this week to expand the federal eviction moratorium to include more renters and extend the protection until next March 2021. But landlords and property owners are likely to object and that legislation also hasn’t gained wide Republican support.
Most renters fall outside the federal moratorium and are protected by a patchwork of state and local eviction bans that are starting to weaken.
And even for renters in properties backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which includes about 40 percent of the mortgages for multifamily dwellings, federal authorities say they have limited power to enforce the eviction moratorium.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) said this week that property owners with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be eligible for more help — extra time to pay their mortgage. The landlords are barred from filing eviction complaints or charging late fees while receiving that help.
But FHFA lacks power to enforce the law, said Mark Calabria, the agency’s director. “We have no information on renters. We have no way of contacting renters,” said Calabria, noting that eviction law is traditionally a local issue.
As unemployment rates jumped, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac scrambled to create online search engines so renters could look up whether their buildings were backed by either company and therefore covered by the federal moratorium. But the hastily built websites can be tripped up by someone abbreviating a word or putting an extra space in an address.
“We have had to build this thing from scratch,” Calabria said. “There were certainly some kinks to it, [but] I would rather have this up working 80 percent than not having it at all.”
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae said that they follow up on renters’ complaints and are working to improve their online search tools.
A growing rental problem
Without strict enforcement of the law, housing advocates say, millions of people could be illegally evicted. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “must proactively ensure compliance with this provision” of the Cares Act, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in separate letters to the companies. “Now is the time to prevent evictions.”
The moratoriums are a temporary remedy that could lead to a bigger problem for renters asked to quickly catch up on missed payments when the bans lift, said David Dworkin, president of the National Housing Conference, which has called for the creation of a large-scale rental assistance program. “This is a once-in-a-100-year pandemic. It is not unreasonable to expect the government to cover” lost rental income, he said.
Without a rental assistance program, some communities could find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having local police enforcing eviction orders in black neighborhoods after weeks of protests following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, he said.
“Eviction is a very public experience that impacts the entire community. Your belongings are dumped on the street while your children and neighbors watch,” Dworkin said. “Given the high degree of tension we are already experiencing, I don’t think that’s a dynamic we want to test.”
Some housing advocates are also worried about the virtual hearings occurring in some cities where in-person court appearances are still hampered by the coronavirus.
Not all renters, especially the elderly or poor, will have access to the technology needed to participate in such hearings, said Abigail Staudt, managing attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. “Can witnesses attend these hearings? How are subpoenas being handled? How is evidence being entered into the record?” she said. “Maybe the court is handling everything very well, and I trust that they probably are, but we don’t know because we can’t see what’s happening.”
When Columbus, Ohio, began preparing to open its court dockets again, Franklin County Administrative Judge Ted Barrows said it was clear the courtrooms were too small for all lawyers, plaintiffs and other court watchers to keep a proper social distance. He considered moving the hearings to nearby schools and recreation centers before settling on the local convention center. When the courts began hearing cases again last month, temperatures were taken as attendees entered the building, and seats were placed six feet apart, Barrows said.
In many of the cases heard so far, either the tenant has already vacated the apartment or the landlord is trying to work out a deal, Barrows said. But it’s still early, he acknowledged.
“It’s logical to think there is going to be an uptick” in evictions, he said. “I don’t feel good about that, but I am between a rock and hard place. The courts are here to enforce contracts; a lease is a contract.”
Now Live! The Cuyahoga County Rent Relief Fund
Legal Aid is proud to announce The Cuyahoga County Rent Relief Fund was launched to combat housing instability due to the pandemic.
- The Relief Fund provides up to three months in emergency rental assistance to income-eligible tenants.
- Payments will be made directly to landlords.
- Households who are at 120 percent of median income (e.g., a family of four with an annual income of around $90,000) are eligible.
The Relief Fund is a partnership between Cuyahoga County and the Cities of Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, Euclid, and Lakewood.
from News 5 Cleveland: Cleveland right to counsel program looks to help with growing evictions
The United Way of Greater Cleveland reports the city dealt with 9,000 evictions in 2019, and unfortunately, that number is expected to grow significantly over the next year with the COVID-19 pandemic a major cause for the increase.
In response, the City of Cleveland, United Way, and the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland launched Right to Counsel Cleveland on July 1, a program that will provide free legal representation to qualifying families facing eviction in housing court.
Augie Napoli, CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland, said Right to Counsel will help to provide better housing stability for families, at a time when the agencies 211 Helplink system took in more than 1200 calls for housing assistance issues just last week.
“Right to Counsel Cleveland aims to level the playing field for families facing eviction,” said Napoli.
Napoli said he expects eviction filings to triple over the next year.
“It’s had a devastating impact on academic, health and economic outcomes, and can send families spiraling deeper and deeper into poverty,” Napoli said.
“Given the current local and national crisis and economic downturn caused by COVID-19, we expect a dramatic rise in eviction rates.”
Colleen Cotter, Executive Director with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, said Cleveland families can sign-up for free legal representation if they meet a few basic criteria.
“If folks are living at or below the poverty line and they have kids in the household they qualify,” Cotter said.
“This is historic, we are the fourth city in the county to establish a right to counsel for tenants.”
“Ensuring that they have a voice in the justice system, that they have access to justice, that they have the ability to appear in court.”
“To make sure folks can stay on their feet, stay in their house, keep their job, keep their kids in school, and create stronger neighborhoods.”
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and the United Way of Greater Cleveland has launched a website that allows residents to apply for Right to Counsel assistance and contains information and links to a dozen organizations that can help with housing issues.
from Legal Services Corporation: Government and Nonprofits Working to Prevent Wave of Evictions in Cleveland
As Cleveland Municipal Court’s Housing Court reopened last Monday, June 15, after a three-month moratorium on evictions, a tidal wave of evictions could come.
Abigail Staudt, managing attorney with the housing group for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, says that before COVID-19, an average of 35 eviction cases were filed each day in housing court, but she says she expects to see that number increase now.
“We know some landlords that are proactively working with their tenants but there are others who [were] probably waiting for the courts to open,” says Staudt.
Legal Aid Society’s Staudt says her agency is significantly increasing its staffing—an initiative that started before the pandemic in preparation for Cleveland’s new right to counsel law.
Landlord-tenant mediation is another service that could stem the tide of evictions, Staudt says. Danielle Cosgrove, director of the Cleveland Mediation Center, says they plan to provide landlord-tenant mediation services to more than 500 additional clients, thanks to funding through the Restart CLE program.
from The Chronicle-Telegram: Eviction and domestic violence legal cases on the rise
ELYRIA — Several legal issues have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly evictions and domestic violence cases.
With unemployment up and people being encouraged to stay home, those two areas have risen. Jessica Bagget, managing attorney for Legal Aid Society offices in Lorain County, said the organization’s domestic violence intakes have risen since the pandemic began.
“These victims were pretty much forced, per se, with the abuser because of the virus,” Bagget said. “We’ve definitely seen an uptick in that. As many as did apply for our services in Lorain County, there certainly is the feeling that probably not everybody called to seek services out of fear for themselves, for their family and where would they go.”
Legal Aid Society can help victims file civil protection orders and help them figure out what the next steps are, whether that be a divorce or a continued protection order. Bagget said Legal Aid partners with Genesis House to help victims.
Bagget said getting a Civil Protection Order can ease victims’ fear and give them a sense of safety from their abuser. Legal Aid has started offering an online intake process people can fill out since their offices are closed to walk-ins.
“That’s definitely a need and it hasn’t decreased at all in Lorain County,” Bagget said.
Since the shutdown started in March, Bagget said her office knew it was just a matter of time before eviction cases would start to rise.
“Rent wouldn’t be able to be paid, many would lose their jobs,” she said. “Eventually it’s going to come to a head and we’re going to have all of these people potentially homeless and not able to find new housing.”
If landlords file for eviction for no rent payment and they succeed, Bagget said that can hurt renters’ credit report, which is often what potential landlords check before renting.
That’s why it’s important to call, Bagget said. No matter what the issue, she said Legal Aid can provide guidance for those situations.
Under the federal CARES Act, a moratorium was placed on some types of evictions until July 25. It restricts landlords from filing for evictions for nonpayment of rent, including fees or penalties.
Covered properties include federal housing rental programs covered by the Violence Against Women Act, properties with a federally backed mortgage loan and properties with a federally backed multifamily mortgage.
“A lot of people don’t know they are in these types of properties and it’s important that they know their rights,” Bagget said. “We want to talk to them, want them to call. We definitely want to avoid families being evicted and not having incomes because they’ve been laid off. There are opportunities for us to advocate.”
Legal Aid also covers other issues, including offering an unemployment hotline and issues getting benefits from the Department of Jobs and Family Services. If people contact them, Bagget said they can either help or provide other resources, like United Way, El Centro and other local organizations.
Legal Aid’s website is lasclev.org/ and its telephone is (888) 817-3777.
“Information is power and a lot of people don’t have the legal information,” she said. “And when you have it, you have power.”
from Spectrum News 1: Legal Aid Launches Workers Information Line
In April, the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland set up a worker information line to answer community questions regarding employment and unemployment during the pandemic. Managing Attorney of the Legal Aid Society’s economic justice practice Katherine Hollingsworth says they’ve received over 350 calls and counting.
What You Need To Know
- The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland says their employment practice has seen an influx of calls now that people are being called back to work
- Legal Aid Society attorneys have received over 350 calls from people needing counsel on workers’ rights
- Governor Mike DeWine recently signed an executive order allowing some workers the right to refuse returning to work while still being eligible for unemployment compensation
“Now more than ever, with the COVID-19 crisis, our work that we do in the economic justice group is important. There are so many people who are in a vulnerable position. They’re scared, they may have lost their income, and they may never have been faced with this economic challenge before,” Hollingsworth said.
Legal Aid Society attorneys say they receive many calls about technical administrative issues dealing with the department of jobs and family services. They’re also hearing from people about applying for unemployment compensation, and even more who are now being called back to work and want to know what their rights are.
“A lot of workers still feel hesitant to go back. They’re worried about their safety, they’re worried about their health and questions about do I need to return to work or can I refuse an offer and still collect unemployment compensation?” said Legal Aid Society Staff Attorney Mason Pesek.
Workers’ rights attorney Mason Pesek says Governor Mike DeWine recently signed an executive order allowing some workers under certain circumstances the right to refuse returning to work while still being eligible for unemployment compensation.
“And those include if a medical professional recommends that the employee should not return to work because they’re considered high risk. If that employee is 65 years of age or older, if there is, again, tangible evidence of the health or safety violation, and if the employee has been potentially exposed to COVID, and is subject to a quarantine period,” Pesek said.
Hollingsworth says as workplace safety continues to be a concern, it’s vital that workers keep documentation for themselves.
“If you’re having any problems, keep a record of what’s going on and who you talk to. When you talk to those people and keeping copies of any documents, that is gonna put you in a much better position to potentially prevail if there is a legal case that arises,” Hollingsworth said.
Pesek says for workers who have already returned to work or have never stopped working, knowing their rights is not only vital for their health, but for the livelihood of the economy.
“The workers we represent, I believe, are the backbone of our economy, those are our service industry workers. The workers who are being considered essential and being called back are the ones who are going to be on the frontlines of the reopening of this economy. So, our information that we give, I believe, is critical and keeping them and keeping workers knowledgeable about what their rights are in the workplace, how to remain safe, and how to keep their families safe and maintain their income as we get through, I mean, essentially an unprecedented pandemic,” Pesek says.
If you have questions about your employment rights or the Legal Aid Society’s Worker Information Line, visit their website.
from News 5 Cleveland: Your housing issues answered during phone bank, Facebook Live with legal experts
News 5 and the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland teamed up with the United Way to host a housing help phone bank and Facebook Live to help Northeast Ohio rebound from COVID-19.
News 5’s phone bank was made possible with the help of United Way 211 Helplink System, with navigators working remotely to take dozens of calls from concerned tenants.
Jennifer Sheehe, Supervising Housing Group Attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland told News 5 the inability to pay rent and tenants requesting rent assistance are the two biggest issues facing tenants during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
Sheehe said too many landlords were illegally throwing out tenants when the City of Cleveland temporarily suspended evictions due to coronavrus concerns.
“We call them self help evictions, meaning landlords are with shutting off water, changing locks, they are taking measure into their own hands,” Sheehee said.
“It’s completely illegal because only the court has the ability that they have to move, and in order to do that there is a process.” (8
Sheehe was pleased to announce the start of “right to counsel” legislation on July 1, an effort legal aid successfully promoted, allowing qualify tenants to obtain free legal representation during an eviction in court.
“There are some qualifications, you have to have a child in the home and be below a certain percentage of the poverty line. But we really think we’re going to reach out to a lot of tenants because it gives them a right.”
Sheehe said tenants must remain active if they’re in a dispute with a landlord, they must make sure they appear for all court eviction proceedings, and they should not withhold rent on their own.
Sheehe said tenants can only suspend rent payments if they participate in a court approved rent escrow program.
“You have to give a notice to a landlord in writing, give them a reasonable time to make that repair,” Sheehe said.
“And then if you’re current with your rent, then you can go ahead and make that deposit with the court.”
If you would like to apply to get help from a Legal Aid attorney, you can visit www.lasclev.org to apply online anytime.
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland has increased its services due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many people are facing legal issues with shelter and economic stability.
Each year, approximately 20,000 residential eviction actions are filed in Cuyahoga County, of which approximately 9,000 are in the City of Cleveland. More than 60 percent of eviction cases filed in Cleveland include households with children. Many families living in Cleveland are housing insecure. Cleveland families move at least five times more than the national average. Families with children who face eviction have increased levels of disruption in school and higher rates of absenteeism.
Tenants often lack knowledge and awareness of their legal rights. The fear of being evicted and being forced to seek housing, in a limited housing market, discourages many Cleveland tenants from fighting eviction actions. Additionally, many tenants live in uninhabitable living conditions due to aging housing stock. Often, tenants fail to report substandard housing conditions because they fear eviction.
Evictions have an economic impact, often leading to loss of employment, health problems like more frequent hospitalizations, lower educational achievement and higher dropout rates for children, increased use of all social service systems and unstable communities.
from News 5 Cleveland: More Ohio families living below poverty while surviving coronavirus pandemic
Written b Taneisha Cordell in News 5 Cleveland
The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies conducts studies on poverty in Ohio annually. While it’s too soon to know the exact impact of COVID-19 on Ohio’s poverty rate, the coalition’s Executive Director Philip Cole says more families are struggling.
“Many people in middle class are suddenly poor and they’re struggling,” Cole said. “Some of our agencies were seeing increases and phone calls and people coming in asking for assistance by four and 500% so if you saw 1,000 people all of a sudden you saw 5,000.”
Under the 2020 federal guidelines, a family of three with an annual income of less than $21,720 is living in poverty. This year’s study found one in 20 people in the United States match the criteria. It found six out of every 20 people struggle financially at least two months out of the year.
In Ohio, 14% of Ohioans had annual incomes below the federal poverty level in 2018, which is a two percent decline from five years ago. Yet, it’s still slightly above the national average. Cole says Ohio ranks 16th among states with the highest poverty rates.
“It’s because of the living conditions, lack of healthcare, people having to go to work on these buses, you know when you’re packed together tightly it’s hard for low-income people you know to maintain social distancing and those kind of things,” Cole said.
The reality is making it hard for families to afford basic necessities like food and housing. In Cleveland, at least 9,000 evictions are filed every year, according to the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. In court, the group says tenants often lose their cases even with representation.
“It’s basically a human rights issue. Everybody deserves housing,” said Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Kelley.
Kelley says it’s a new legal aid program will help city residents fight evictions filed before or after the pandemic.
“We will be representing all people facing eviction that meet the criteria, 100% poverty, children in the house. And we’re going to advocate on their behalf,” he said.
Kelley says the city is also allocating $11.5 million from the CARES Act to support those unable to pay rent due to either being furloughed or let go from their job because of coronavirus. He says residents can apply online starting next month.
Click here to read the full article in News 5 Cleveland
from ideastream: Cleveland Housing Court Sees Fewer-Than-Expected Eviction Filings
There were far fewer new eviction filings in Cleveland Housing Court last week than the court expected, despite a months-long moratorium on evictions prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The court began accepting new cases for the first time since the start of the pandemic on June 15 and was set to enforce a daily limit of 125 filings. On the first day, the court received 129 filings. But the number decreased each day and by Thursday, only 32 new eviction cases were filed.
Housing Court Judge W. Moná Scott credits the city’s rental assistance program, which will disperse $11.3 million in federal money to Cleveland residents. The court has worked to get the word out about that assistance, she said.
“Not only is it talked about to the renters, but you also want to have that discussion with landlords,” said Scott, whose court has been holding virtual community meetings with landlords and tenants and distributing information about rental assistance. “I mean, everything was shut down and some landlords had a good rapport with their tenants.”
Scott said some landlords are content with waiting for money from the city when it becomes available. Cleveland starts accepting rental assistance applications next month.
“I really hope that that’s what’s going on,” said Abigail Staudt, a managing attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, who said she would have preferred the court resume evictions only after the rental assistance money was available.
“If it had been flipped, where that assistance was already available, maybe we wouldn’t see filings initially once the court did open,” said Staudt.
Staudt said her office saw a 25 percent increase over the same time last year in calls from people with housing problems the week before the court reopened. It’s hard to tell what exactly is going on at the court because hearings are being held online, unless a party in the case requests an in-person hearing, she said. And those online hearings are not streamed, as some other courts do, for the general public to observe.
“Normally, if there was a big change in what was happening at the courthouse, we would have a couple people over there — or at least one person over there — just to see what was going on and how it was working,” Staudt said. “Given the way things are now, we just haven’t been able to do that.”
The court is not livestreaming hearings and Scott said she is not convinced the court must make eviction hearings publicly accessible in the same way criminal cases are. And she worries about protecting the privacy of those facing eviction.
“Even the way the court was set up [for in-person hearings] was kind of personal. The podiums were really close to the bench,” Scott said. “And that was done intentionally so that people wouldn’t have to speak loud about things they thought were embarrassing, personal. You’re dealing with people in a sensitive area where they can’t afford to pay their rent.”
Cases are not streaming online, but Scott said public access still will be granted on a case-by-case basis. Those who want access to a hearing must ask the court the day before the hearing, and a Zoom link will be provided, she said.
It will be some time before new filings end up in the courtroom. The Housing Court spent its first week since re-opening beginning to address a 500-case backlog that built up because of the pandemic shutdown.
from Cleveland.com: Cleveland Housing Court to resume eviction hearings for first time since coronavirus led to recession
The Cleveland Housing Court on Monday will resume eviction hearings and start accepting new cases for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced it to shut down.
The court, which hears the most housing cases of any in Cuyahoga County, stopped evictions in March when it became apparent that having many people in a room together for hearings at the Justice Center presented a public health hazard. Since then, the economic fallout from the pandemic led many to predict that the nation will see staggeringly high numbers of families thrown out of their homes for not paying their rent or mortgage and large number of eviction cases filed in the local court.
People out of work who cannot pay their rent can also affect landlords, especially small business owners, as they continue to owe taxes and other fees for their ownership of the property.
“This is going to be a real crisis for our community,” Legal Aid Society of Cleveland managing attorney Abigail Staudt said. “We are going to have a lot of people who need our help.”
A reporter on Thursday requested to speak to somebody from the Housing Court to talk about what they expected next week. A court spokeswoman did not fulfill the request by the time this story published.
Housing Court Judge W. Mona Scott wrote in a June 4 order that the clerk would only accept 125 new eviction cases a day. The court will then schedule hearings for 30 days later.
Cases filed after the clerk hits its limit will be held over for the next day. A single landlord or firm can also only file 25 a day, including no more than five for reasons other than a tenant not paying rent, according to the order.
The court, which has a backlog of about 1,000 cases, also plans to hear 125 eviction cases a day, with the bulk occurring virtually via Zoom, Staudt said. Those without access to Zoom can inform the court, and the court will hold the hearing in person the day after it was originally set, she said.
Court staff has also set up a system to submit evidence before a hearing.
Staudt expressed concerns about how tenants may fare with the new restrictions and adaptations the court undertook.
Chief among them was the court’s use of Zoom, a necessity in the age of social distancing. Judges in many courts have expanded their use of online hearings during the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it will go smoothly, especially for people not used to it, she said.
Online hearings may also impede the ability for them to be public.
Staudt said she feels the court will be receptive to issues that may arise. However, “I think it’s going to be a painful growing experience,” Staudt said.
The state said in May that the unemployment rate for the previous month was 16.8% and that the state lost 823,000 jobs as a result of the pandemic. It said Thursday that it had received more than 1.3 million traditional unemployment claims over the past 12 weeks.
Staudt noted that the Legal Aid Society has fielded inquiries not just from lower-income families, but clients who face eviction from higher-end apartments because of this recession’s unpredictability. Some programs offering rent assistance are in the works in Cleveland, though advocates feel that won’t be enough.
“Even careful people who have some savings, they can’t maintain it when industries haven’t opened up again,” she said.
from ideastream: Cleveland Housing Court Restarts Eviction Hearings Monday
Cleveland Housing Court starts hearings on evictions and accepting new filings Monday morning for the first time since March.
The court paused all hearings and new eviction filings as of March 18, so a flood of evictions could be headed to the court. But it won’t be clear for some time how many evictions the coronavirus pandemic caused in Cleveland, because the court set a limit of 125 filings per day.
According to Legal Aid Society attorney Abigail Staudt, who oversees the housing group, there’s no doubt many Clevelanders have struggled to pay rent over the last three months.
“My guess is that pretty steadily for the next I don’t know how long – six weeks, eight weeks, two months, four months – we’re going to see, every day, 125 cases filed,” Staudt said.
Housing court also has to get through the backlog of cases that had stacked up before the pandemic. Virtual hearings on those cases will begin as soon as the court opens.
“I feel like the whole notion of these virtual hearings, particularly in the eviction realm, it’s a whole new world,” Staudt said. “It hasn’t been something that I’ve heard of really being tested out anywhere else.”
Other courts around the country have tried used virtual hearings for things like setting bail or custody disputes, and the practice is growing during the coronavirus pandemic.
A 2008 Northwestern University study on video’s effect on bail amounts found bail amounts went up by 66 percent after Cook County in Illinois, which includes Chicago, switched to video bond hearings.
The decision to restart eviction hearings in Cleveland comes just as rental relief programs are gearing up to help people. Cleveland and Cuyahoga County rental assistance programs are scheduled to begin accepting applications in July.
from Cleveland.com: More coronavirus work protections are needed for low-wage workers: Mason Pesek and Corinne Huntley
Ohio’s economic reopening is underway under the “Responsible RestartOhio” plan. However, the reality is that even the most comprehensive safety guidelines will result in employees being called back to work in environments that place them at higher risk of coronavirus exposure. Until there is comprehensive testing and/or a vaccine, continued spread of the virus is inevitable.
Most professionals in higher-earning sectors have the privilege of continuing remote work, and many offices have opted to continue to work remotely to minimize risk to their employees. For most low-wage workers – including janitors, servers, and cashiers – remote work is not an option; they will have to return to public workplaces prone to community spread, regardless of their concerns.
Ohio’s economy is only as healthy as its most vulnerable workers. As calls have intensified for a return to “normalcy” and a faster reopening – largely led by business leaders – Ohio’s workers will be faced with an impossible choice: return to a workplace they may feel is unsafe, or risk losing their employment and income.
A popular myth is that a worker can voluntarily quit their job and be eligible for unemployment benefits. This is far from the truth. Unemployment compensation is only available to workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Very rarely is someone who quit a job considered “not at fault” for that job loss. Further, neither federal programs nor Ohio’s expanded unemployment compensation eligibility standards allow workers to refuse to return to work and continue to receive unemployment benefits if they feel their workplace is unsafe.
Working Ohioans deserve the same level of consideration and concern as business owners and should be able to refuse to return to work or voluntarily leave their employment due to reasonable coronavirus-related issues without risking denial of unemployment benefits or being accused of fraud by their employer.
To make matters worse, many workers still have not received the unemployment compensation benefits to which they are entitled because the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) continues to be overwhelmed with unemployment applications. Ohio workers had to wait months to apply for the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
While Ohio’s workers have struggled to hold on as they wait for the payments they need to afford rent and other essentials, ODJFS established a website encouraging employers to report workers for fraud if they refuse to return to work. While public outcry has since made the state reconsider operating the site, the fact that the state devoted resources to the creation of a fraud-reporting site while workers have gone months without their owed payments is outrageous.
Policy organizations like Policy Matters Ohio and the Ohio Poverty Law Center have provided several valuable recommendations for supporting unemployed and vulnerable workers during the ongoing crisis:
1. Providing return-to work exemptions for workers particularly vulnerable to the virus; workers who are being asked to return to workplaces that are not meeting safety standards; and workers without access to child care.
2. Providing expanded, concrete guidance on “just cause” determinations for quitting work as a result of the deadly pandemic. Similar policies have been enacted in other states, and these recommendations would provide vital protections.
Ohio businesses have undeniably suffered as a result of the economic shutdown. But any economic pain must be weighed against the potential health risk and harm reopening the economy may cause to the Ohioans who have no choice but to return to work and expose themselves to the virus. We must value the economic and physical health of every Ohioan equally and provide them the proper protections and support to see them through the pandemic.
from Cleveland.com: Ohio housing advocates warn of impending COVID-19 related eviction crisis and urge Congress to act
Housing advocates in Ohio warn that thousands of Ohioans who lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic could end up homeless because they won’t be able to make their rent payments in upcoming months. They want the federal government to provide emergency rental assistance to keep that from happening.
Ohio’s April unemployment rate tripled to 16.8% as the state lost 823,700 jobs with many employers shuttered because of coronavirus. Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio Executive Director Bill Faith says the majority of the 1.3 million Ohioans who have filed for unemployment since the pandemic started are renters, many of whom pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing.
He said it’s important to keep renters in their housing to avoid flooding crowded homeless shelters at a time when social distancing is advised to halt the virus’ spread.
“We’re asking people to stay at home and shelter in place,” agreed Kevin Nowak, executive director of Cleveland’s CHN Housing Partners. “You can’t do that if you can’t pay your rent.”
Nowak said some of the tenants his organization has helped with rent money face obstacles returning to work because the day care centers they rely upon have not reopened. If they can’t work, they won’t be able to pay their rent.
Although some unemployed renters will get their jobs back as the economy reopens, housing advocates note that Ohio courts that process evictions are also reopening. Legal Aid Society of Cleveland managing attorney Abigail Staudt said that in Cuyahoga County, there’s a backlog of at least 1,000 eviction cases that were on hold before courts were closed because of the pandemic, and she can’t predict how many more will be filed later this month when new cases can be initiated.
The housing advocates are urging passage of legislation authored by Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown that would authorize $100 billion for emergency rental assistance during the pandemic. Brown says the bill would use the structure of an existing emergency rental assistance grants program from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “to get these dollars out to help people stay in their homes so they’re not evicted.”
His language was included in the HEROES Act, which the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives approved last month but the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate has refused to consider. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky described the House legislation as a “$3 trillion messaging bill.”
Brown said he’s unsure whether McConnell would be willing to act on his rental legislation, which only has Democratic cosponsors.
“I’m hopeful because the need is so great and I don’t think Mitch McConnell, on his watch, wants to dramatically increase the homeless population in eastern Kentucky,” Brown said.
from News 5 Cleveland: Some landlords taking unofficial “evictions” into their own hands before courts open
Some landlords are taking unofficial evictions into their own hands when tenants fall behind on their rent during the coronavirus outbreak.
More than a million Ohioans are out of work because of the coronavirus and many more are struggling to pay their rent.
“It’s hard especially with right now, not working,” said renter Robert Miller.
He lost his job as a welder at the end of March. He pays his $1,050 per month rent with unemployment benefits and some belt-tightening.
“I can’t go out as much as I’d like,” said Miller. “You can’t do all the fun stuff, entertaining stuff. It’s like my mom always said, ‘We have food at the house.'”
Miller knows he’s one of the lucky ones who has enough money to get by at least for now.
“I know there are people out there that are struggling,” said Miller.
Those tenants often have to turn to lawyers like Legal Aid Society of Cleveland Housing Group Managing Attorney Abigail Staudt. She says she’s heard from restaurant industry workers and people who have other jobs that rely on parts of the economy that have shut down.”
While many landlords are working with their tenants, Staudt says other aren’t waiting for court to reopen to start the eviction process if tenants fall behind on rent.
Lockouts might be illegal, but The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland says it could still take a lawyer to get you back in your home.
“With courts not accepting filings, some landlords are taking it into their own hands,” said Staudt.
Those steps are called a lock out and Staudt says some tenants have returned home to see new locks on the doors.
Staudt says that’s not legal, but you may need a lawyer to help get back into your home.
The good news is that there are local non-profits and federal programs that are focusing on helping residents pay rent.
“Rent assistance is coming,” said Staudt. “Some of it is here but there’s a lot more coming.”
If you’re having trouble paying rent right now:
- Pay whatever you can manage right now even if it’s not the full amount
- Communicate with your landlord what your situation is and when you think you’ll be able to pay what you owe
- Look for rent assistance through organizations like EDEN
from Patch: COVID-19 Update From Cleveland Heights City Manager
I’d like to remind everyone to be extra cautious at this time as new scams are popping up regularly. Scammers are contacting people claiming to be tracing COVID-19 contacts. While legitimate health agencies, including the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and the Cleveland Department of Public Health, are calling people to complete contact tracing, they will never ask for your Social Security number or bank account information. Do not click on links or respond to texts saying you have been exposed to COVID-19. Please report suspicious calls or texts to http://ConsumerAffairs.Cuyahog… or call 216-443-SCAM.
This is the 46th annual National EMS Week. In 1974, President Gerald Ford authorized EMS Week to celebrate EMS practitioners and the important work they do in our nation’s communities. EMS Week brings together local communities and medical personnel to honor the dedication of those who provide the day-to-day lifesaving services of medicine’s “front line.” Even, or especially, during this time of COVID-19, EMS Week is the perfect time to recognize our EMS workers and all that they do for us and for our nation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruption in the lives of most Americans. As a reminder, some people may be eligible for help paying rent and utilities that may be a struggle for many. I have heard wonderful examples of landlords working with their tenants to help them maneuver through this challenging time. The State has encouraged lenders to provide loan relief and we are hopeful that cooperative arrangements between tenants and landlords can be reached. If you are a renter and are concerned about this issue, there are resources available to you. View and download the City of Cleveland Heights Renters Resource Guide.
As a reminder, residential customers who are facing a hardship in paying their utility bills due to the lack of income during this time should contact each utility to discuss options such as budget billing as well as energy assistance programs or other payment arrangements based on customers’ situations. Please visit www.firstenergy.com for more information. Cleveland Water is temporarily stopping and restoring disconnections. Please visit www.clevelandwater.com for more information. And Dominion Energy Ohio is also suspending service disconnections for nonpayment during the pandemic. For more information visit www.dominionenergy.com/coronav….
Additionally, you should have recently received your Cleveland Heights utilities bill. We understand that during this challenging time, it may be difficult for some people to make their full payment. If you are a struggling household, please call 216-291-5995 (and leave a message) so we can discuss possible special payment arrangements.
Another great resource I want to remind you about is The Legal Aid Society. They created a comprehensive resource on civil legal issues related to COVID-19. For example, the “What are Tenants Rights during COVID-19?” page clarifies which properties are covered by the federal law delaying evictions, utility protections, and more. The page “What are Worker Rights and Benefits during COVID-19?” includes information on unemployment eligibility as well as medical leave. Legal Aid also launched a Worker Information Line to support those who have questions about their rights at work or unemployment benefits. Call 216-861-5899 and leave a message with any questions. A Legal Aid staff member will return calls weekdays between 9:00am and 5:00pm within 1-2 business days. Additionally, you can view Frequently Asked Questions related to COVID-19.
from News 5 Cleveland: This is who qualifies for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
It is the help you may need as you restart work but may not know is there. That is why News 5 is breaking down the paid sick leave available right now to help workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It is called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and includes both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, and it’s available through the end of the year.
In general, the paid leave for COVID-19-related reasons applies to full and part-time employees of private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees, and certain public sector employers.
The federal government outlines that an employee is entitled to take leave related to COVID-19 if the employee is unable to work, including unable to telework, because they:
- are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19
- have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
- are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis
- are caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantined as described in (2)
- are caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons; or
- are experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Legal experts we spoke with said the language in reason 6 is very vague and perhaps is a catchall to cover future illness related to the coronavirus.
In general, reasons 1-3 will get you two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at your regular rate of pay.
In general, reasons 4-6 will get you two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds your regular rate of pay.
Now, reason number 5 can also qualify you for the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, so long as you’ve been employed for at least 30 days.
A covered employer must provide those employees with an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay if the employee is unable to work because they must care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
Click here for a more in-depth explanation of the calculation of pay.
Important to note, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees could qualify for an exemption from the requirement to provide paid leave due to the closure of school or child care if they can prove the leave payments would jeopardize the viability of their business as a going concern.
If you qualify, the act requires that you must provide your employer with documentation in support of the paid sick leave or expanded FMLA.
Documentation must include a signed statement containing:
- your name
- requested dates of leave
- the COVID-19 qualifying reasons for leave
- a statement representing that you are unable to work or telework because of the qualifying reason
You’ll also need to provide the name of the government entity that issued your quarantine or isolation order. Or, provide the name of the health care provider who advised you to self-quarantine or the name of the child, the school or place of care and a statement that no other suitable person is available to care for the child.
Legal experts say keep copies of everything you submit to your employer.
“If you are requesting the leave, make sure you have the documentation that you requested it or submitted it to your supervisor,” said Corinne Huntley, attorney at Legal Aid Society. “That way if you get approved or denied you have the information with you, and if you think you’ve been denied this leave wrongly, you can contact the Legal Aid Society or our worker information line.”
Legal Aid Society contact:
216-861-5899 in Cuyahoga County
440-210-4532 in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain Counties
Businesses are reimbursed with tax credits for the cost of providing the paid leave.
from Weltman: Is Ohio Truly on the Brink of an Eviction Crisis?
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to wreak havoc on everyday life, both renters and low-income homeowners are feeling the pressure. As a non-uniform state, most, if not all, housing courts in Ohio followed the Ohio State Supreme Court’s guidance on putting a halt to regular evictions during the pandemic. However, as Ohio begins to reopen, the question has arisen: What will life look like on the other side of this? Reopening housing court cases, after this closure, courts will undoubtedly face a surge of new eviction filings – paired with the huge backlog of cases that are already waiting for legal attention. This anticipated heavy eviction caseload will likely prompt courts to implement new rules and procedures to manage this.
Housing courts will need flexible methods for landlords, tenants, and mortgage companies alike. Flexibility will be necessary to prevent the courts from being overwhelmed with eviction actions, landlords from having to make very difficult decisions, and aiming to keep families in their homes and off the street during a global pandemic.
Provisions of the federal CARES Act protect some renters from eviction (renters receiving federal assistance or housing vouchers and those in properties with federally backed mortgages), but do not shelter all tenants from potential eviction. However, courts within Cuyahoga County have taken some steps to potentially alleviate the stress for impacted tenants and landlords.
- Right to Counsel: There has been talk of expanded rental assistance programs, and, back in October 2019, the City of Cleveland created a right to counsel requirement for low-income tenants with children. The United Way of Greater Cleveland will work with Cleveland City Council to spearhead the program, while United Way will contract with The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland to provide the legal services. Legal Aid will provide access to legal representation by its staff, pro bono attorneys, and other subcontracted entities. This right to counsel will begin on July 1 of this year.
- Federal Funding: It is also recommended that Cuyahoga County should consider using some of its federal CARES Act funding to underwrite efforts similar to the City of Cleveland’s to help mitigate evictions in the surrounding Cleveland suburbs.
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF): Another option for relief is unused TANF funds, which would provide a potential source of funding to help bolster housing security for these families. The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) has called on Governor Mike DeWine to authorize the use of $35 million dollars in unused TANF funds to back its housing program for homeless families. In Cuyahoga County, certain low-income renters with children in the household who are at imminent risk of homelessness can now apply for emergency TANF funds. Please visit edeninc.org for more information on the application for TANF funds and a complete list of programs offered through their organization to assist with homelessness.
Outside of Cuyahoga County, rental assistance programs are being considered state-wide. COHHIO is also advocating for a proposal to be sponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown and U.S. House leaders to include a $100 billion time-limited emergency rental assistance program in the next Coronavirus relief bill. Under this proposal, low-income tenants who recently lost their jobs would apply for financial assistance that would be paid directly to their landlords. This proposal would allow some back rent to be covered, as well as current and upcoming rent payments, until the tenant obtains employment again. This would keep tenants housed while guaranteeing that property owners can continue earning their livelihood as well. Landlords, mortgage holders, and mortgage companies may be able to participate in rental assistance to limit evictions or show forbearance until the times ahead become clearer.
At the end of the day, eviction actions are equitable proceedings, meaning, courts can consider facts outside of the law – such as how the parties involved (both tenants and landlords alike) have been affected by COVID-19. That said, the courts SHOULD consider outside factors. While eviction moratoriums can help in the short term, tenants are still responsible for payment of rent, and landlords still need that rental revenue to pay their own bills. Flexible methods will be needed for all.
If you’re a landlord looking for assistance in navigating your residential evictions, be sure to attend the upcoming Weltman Webinar, this Wednesday, May 20th at 11:00 a.m. Click here to register.
from News 5 Cleveland: Cleveland Public Library launching services, programs virtually
As more businesses start to open across northeast Ohio, the Cleveland Public Library is also planning its comeback. The library is launching a number of its popular programs and services – virtually.
Staff members have been working on ways to deliver these services online since the main building and its 27 branches closed in March. Many people see each branch as the center of the communities they’re in, and now that they’re closed, they felt they needed to fill the gap left behind.
Starting in June, the library will launch the first wave of online programs, which are for both children and adults.
They will be offered by phone or online using videoconferencing technology including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Flipgrid.
“It’s one thing to correspond with people via email, but to see another human face, a friendly face on the other end is going to help you either pursue your dreams or address a legal matter, or maybe develop a skill for a new job. That’s what the library is willing to do and able to do with these new virtual programs,” Aaron Mason, director of community engagement for the Cleveland Public Library, said.
The virtual programs being offered include:
- Reach Success: Free career and education coaching to help you develop a personalized journey to productive and enjoyable employment.
Legal Aid at the Library: The Legal Aid Society offers free virtual advice and referral clinics for civil legal matters including family, housing, employment, benefits, and immigration issues.
- Health & Trauma Recovery: MetroHealth staff offer a virtual safe space for Library patrons to get support and resources to get them through a crisis, including new access to virtual workshops focusing on topics including grief counseling, immigration issues, employment services, peer mentorship, and assistance with food, housing, and transportation.
- Take Charge of Your Health: NEOMED offers live virtual health education classes and telehealth appointments. Class topics include but are not limited to diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic disease management, cancer, heart health and mental health.
ARTS & EDUCATION
- Get Loud! Speak Out! Summer Lit League 2020: The Library’s summer reading program is back with virtual story times, activities and virtual town halls for kids and families.
- Express Yourself: The Art Therapy Studio hosts online art classes for kids ages 7 and up, fostering healthy self-expression and coping mechanisms to help deal with daily stressors.
- SAT and ACT Online Boot Camps: College Now Greater Cleveland offers free, online courses for CMSD students, focusing on entrance exam preparation, study skills, test-taking strategies, and hands-on practice.
- Neighborhood Voices: Literary Cleveland launches a virtual writing program and free online workshops to encourage Clevelanders from every area of the city to pen stories, essays, and poems about their neighborhood.
- Neighborhood Voices: Literary Cleveland launches a virtual writing program and free online workshops to encourage Clevelanders from every area of the city to pen stories, essays, and poems about their neighborhood.
- Kindergarten Club: A free program to prepare your child for kindergarten and build support for their first year of school. Through fun activities like reading, writing, talking, singing, and playing together, families will gain valuable skills to help their child succeed in school through kindergarten and beyond.
- Free Online Tutoring: available in all subjects for students entering grades K – 12 this fall.
The library board is expected to meet next week and discuss plans about reopening branch buildings.
from WKYC: Cleveland Public Library expanding virtual experience to include popular programming and services
In a press release issued on Wednesday, the Cleveland Public Library announced they will be expanding their virtual experience for patrons as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
June will see programs for children and adults alike return to help with “every facet of life.”
Since their closure on March 13, the Cleveland Public Library has been working with its partners to create and offer virtual programming and services. The programs will span from life skills, arts, education and even legal assistance.
“Given the challenges of providing much-needed services to our community during this pandemic, we had to be creative,” said CPL Chief Equity, Education & Engagement Officer Dr. Sadie Winlock. “We worked with our partners to examine how to provide our services again in a new and innovative way.”
The services will be offered via phone or online videoconferencing through programs such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Flipgrid.
Those who are in need of internet access have access to the Library’s Wi-Fi signal outside of the Main Library, as well as their 27 neighborhood branches.
One of the popular programs making its return is the Library’s “Get Loud! Speak Out! Summer Lit League 2020” which will feature virtual story times, activities and virtual town halls for kids and families together.
The Library will also be offering legal aid through The Legal Aid Society, which will include, “free virtual advice and referral clinics for civil legal matters including family, housing, employment, benefits, and immigration issues.”
A full list of programs and services offered can be found on the Library’s website here.
from Cleveland.com: An eviction crisis could be coming. Ohio’s courts, and localities, need to prepare and work to mitigate it
The pandemic economy is squeezing renters as well as low-income homeowners, setting the stage for what many experts fear will be a surge of evictions.
Most housing courts in Ohio followed state Supreme Court guidance to impose a moratorium on regular evictions during the pandemic. But now, some in the Cleveland suburbs have already started hearing regular evictions again, according to the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Cleveland Housing Court, which handles by far the largest number of eviction cases locally, is due to start new hearings June 15.
All such courts face not just an evictions backlog, but also the likelihood that eviction caseloads will accelerate, as renters and mortgagees both fall behind in their payments because of lost jobs and income. Affordable housing experts warn of a crisis that could toss families on the streets when the coronavirus is still with us and there are few safe housing options for newly homeless families.
The challenge is to find a good balance that doesn’t create new crises, by trying to minimize unnecessary homelessness for tenants and provide more options for landlords.
What needs to happen?
* Housing courts need to be ready with innovative efforts to help landlords and mortgage companies find middle ground, to keep families in their homes if possible. Among new tools: expanded rental assistance programs and a new right-to-counsel project in Cleveland evictions that launches July 1. Cleveland Housing Court and its partners are also hosting a free virtual workshop May 30 for Cleveland landlords. (To register: https://tinyurl.com/y9ncfw4y)
* Since evictions are “equitable proceedings,” courts can go beyond considering just the law; they can — and should — consider how the parties have been impacted by COVID-19.
* Cuyahoga County and other communities should consider using some of their federal coronavirus CARES Act funding to underwrite efforts similar to Cleveland’s to help mitigate evictions in the suburbs.
* Landlords and mortgage holders should show forbearance and draw on new resources, such as rental assistance, to limit evictions, in ways that could benefit all parties. Last week, Sen. Sherrod Brown introduced legislation seeking to create a federal $100 billion emergency rental assistance fund.
* Unused Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) money provides a potential source of state and local funding to help shore up housing security. The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio has called on Gov. Mike DeWine to free up $35 million in unused TANF money to underwrite its housing program for homeless families. COHHIO estimates that more than 630,000 Ohio renters have been laid off thanks to the pandemic. These jobless men and women “owe a combined total of more than $500 million in rent each month,” it says.
In Cuyahoga County, low-income renters who are at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines ($52,400 for a family of four) — and who have a minor child in the home and are in imminent risk of homelessness — can now apply for emergency TANF money to help clear rent arrears or pay rent, security and utility deposits. The money, provided through COHHIO, is only available until June 30. (Go to edeninc.org.)
In Cleveland, the city’s landmark $7 million three-year public-private effort is about to launch in partnership with Legal Aid and the United Way to provide legal counsel to families facing evictions.
The effort will begin soon after Cleveland Housing Court is due to reopen — an important and needed confluence of forward-looking public policy with urgent public need.
Provisions of the congressional CARES Act do protect some renters from eviction. However, those provisions only benefit a fraction of renters, the Ohio Poverty Law Center has found: renters in federally assisted rental housing; renters who receive rural housing vouchers; and renters in properties whose property owners have federally backed mortgages.
Some mortgage companies are enjoying coronavirus relief, too — definitely so, if they have federally guaranteed mortgages, but also, in some cases, for private mortgage holders. In eviction cases, fairness arguments would have to balance such relief against renters’ obligations.
Flexibility in the housing market is sorely needed, for a variety of reasons: to keep courts from being overwhelmed by eviction proceedings; but also to keep landlords from having to choose a no-win option for everyone — making someone homeless at a time of widespread hardship and unemployment, while needing to find a new tenant at a time when it may be difficult to do so.
from NPR: COVID-19 Has Created A Legal Aid Crisis. FEMA’s Usual Response Is Missing
Unprecedented job losses and furloughs have pushed millions of Americans to the brink of eviction during the coronavirus pandemic, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House have failed to fund a legal assistance program that is routinely available to disaster survivors.
After hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters, including recent tornadoes in Tennessee, the president has directed FEMA to provide money for legal hotlines in affected areas. The hotlines are run through a partnership with the American Bar Association, which provides local attorneys to work for free. The federal government pays up to $5,000 per hotline to cover operational costs such as phone equipment and software.
The Disaster Legal Services program is part of a larger suite of FEMA benefits known as individual assistance, which the governors of at least 30 states have requested in connection with the pandemic.
But the White House has not approved those requests.
The missing funding becomes more pressing every day because, unlike most weather disasters, the pandemic is causing long-term economic destruction. More than 33 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past seven weeks. Temporary bans on evictions will likely expire in many cities beginning later this month, and families that delayed questions of custody, divorce or even intimate partner violence amid the growing pandemic will need help settling those issues as courts reopen.
“I think this will be the biggest legal aid crisis we will face in my lifetime,” says Laura Tuggle, the executive director of the nonprofit Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, who has also provided legal assistance in the region after hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, as well as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Congress included $50 million in legal aid funding in the March 28 coronavirus relief bill, but that money has already been distributed to more than 130 legal aid groups around the country that are struggling to meet demand.
“Now is the time,” for FEMA to make legal services funding available, Tuggle says. “Frankly, I think every community in the United States is going to be in the same boat. It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation.”
The delay in legal services help adds to the emerging picture of FEMA as fumbling the federal pandemic response. In March, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo accused the agency of driving up prices for crucial materials and failing to supply the state with an adequate number of ventilators.
As the pandemic spread across the country, a team of volunteers working under President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, sought to direct FEMA contracts to politically connected Republicans, according to The New York Times.
FEMA says state requests for individual assistance are “under review.”
“The approval of programs in response to a disaster declaration request is made at the discretion of the president,” a FEMA spokesperson wrote in an email to NPR. The White House did not respond to questions from NPR.
Craig Fugate, who served as FEMA administrator during the Obama administration, says it is up to the president to make legal assistance funding available.
“If disaster legal services were activated it would help those folks who cannot otherwise afford legal services,” Fugate says. “You just think, with all of the deaths we’ve seen, families are going to have to start thinking about probating estates [and] wills, and all of the other legal ramifications that come when we lose a loved one.”
Illness and eviction
Eviction is one of the most widespread legal issues that Americans face as a result of the pandemic, and losing access to housing can have profound public health implications.
In New Orleans, sanitation worker Bobby Parker says he went from working 80 hours every two weeks to working 32 hours, and when he was late paying rent on April 1 his landlord changed the locks on his apartment.
Parker is HIV-positive and his medications were locked inside. “I’m at-risk,” he says. “I was scared.”
A city case worker already assigned to help Parker access public benefits connected him to a lawyer at a local legal aid group. It took more than two weeks and the threat of a lawsuit, but the lawyer was able to get the landlord to let him back into the apartment. While he was locked out, Parker alternated between sleeping outside and staying with a friend whose wife sometimes worked overnight shifts.
Parker says if he hadn’t had a lawyer, “I’d probably be a victim, testing positive for COVID-19.”
Without FEMA funding, most states have been unable to offer legal hotlines, making it more difficult for people to get the type of help the New Orleans resident received. The FEMA-funded hotlines connect callers with pro bono lawyers, who often refer clients to local legal aid groups.
In Cleveland, where the outbreak has been relatively small, legal aid attorneys have nonetheless seen a surge in demand because so many people have lost jobs and are struggling to pay rent and bills.
In New York City, local lawyers say they’ve seen a massive influx of requests including calls from essential employees who have been illegally locked out of their apartments, workers who need help paying for food, and emergency and retail workers desperate to draft wills and other documents in case they die of COVID-19.
“Our calls for public benefits assistance increased by 150% compared to the four weeks prior to the crisis,” says Raun Rasmussen, the executive director of the legal aid group Legal Services NYC. He expects that when courts reopen, “there’s going to be an explosion of need as things start opening up in the next few weeks and months.”
FEMA-funded legal hotlines would help meet that demand. But only three states — Texas, Michigan and Nebraska — have been able to activate their statewide legal hotlines this spring, according to the American Bar Association.
“We have a handful of state partners that we work with that are very well equipped to respond to disasters, and they have hotlines that they can easily switch on,” explains Linda Anderson Stanley, the director of the Disaster Legal Services program at the association. But many states have not experienced a disaster that warranted a legal hotline for 10 years or more, “and they don’t have the capacity or the funds to just flip a switch and turn on a hotline.”
One stark indication of the demand for legal help comes from states that have experienced other natural disasters during the pandemic. After tornadoes in Tennessee and earthquakes in Puerto Rico this spring, the White House and FEMA approved individual assistance connected to those disasters. Legal hotlines were activated on a limited basis for affected communities.
But Stanley says the vast majority of calls to those hotlines weren’t about the natural disasters. Instead, people call with questions about the coronavirus pandemic.
When Congress isn’t enough
In late March, Congress appropriated $50 million in extra legal funding in its coronavirus relief bill. “What Congress has, in my view, correctly determined, is that legal services are very helpful in both the response to and recovery from natural disasters,” says Ron Flagg, the president of the Legal Services Corporation, the nonprofit that distributes the funds to local legal aid societies.
Flagg says the money Congress has made available so far is helpful, but not nearly sufficient to meet the growing need for coronavirus-related legal help. The Legal Services Corporation has already distributed virtually every dollar and has asked Congress to allocate another $50 million in the next relief bill.
Flagg and others point out that congressional appropriations are generally paired with FEMA legal funding. After hurricanes and wildfires in 2017 and 2018, Congress twice appropriated $15 million in extra legal aid funding, while FEMA funded legal hotlines in areas affected by the same disasters.
Stanley of the American Bar Association says it is frustrating to still be waiting for FEMA funding. “By now I expected there to be a change,” she says. “We’re really struggling to figure out where the breakdown is.”
from Law360: Coping With A Pandemic: Cleveland Legal Aid’s Colleen Cotter
As society continues to adapt to COVID-19, Law360 is sharing reactions from around the business and legal community.
What challenges has the pandemic created in your specific area of work?
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland staff will tell you they are working as hard as (or harder than) ever to provide high quality legal assistance to those most vulnerable. Legal Aid is a nonprofit law firm serving the civil legal needs of people with low income in northeast Ohio. Legal Aid’s cases involve securing clients’ safety, shelter and economic security.
Throughout the stay-at-home order in Ohio, Legal Aid staff have been working from home. We are accessible to new clients through online and phone intake. We communicate with current clients by text, email, phone and Zoom. We have been working effectively in this new way, and even as the state “opens up” we will continue to do most of our work remotely, to keep clients, staff and the community healthy.
We have also quickly pivoted in response to changing and growing needs. For example, we have seen a significant increase in need around issues involving employment, unemployment and taxes. In response, we created a Worker Information Line and a Virtual Advice Clinic, through which staff and volunteers can provide real-time information and advice on these important topics. These replace the Brief Advice Clinics we were regularly conducting in the community before the pandemic.
We also know that the changes in federal, state and local laws and procedures are confusing. We have increased our community education by creating FAQs on important topics and making them available on a special COVID-19 response page of our website and through social media. We participated with a local television station on a Facebook Live event and a phone bank. Knowledge is power, and we want to empower our client community.
How are you and your family adapting at home?
My husband and I have a 110-pound dog, Joe Strummer (named for the lead singer of The Clash). The pandemic’s impact on Strummer is emblematic of the entire household. On the one hand, she is thrilled we get to spend so much time together. She lays next to me all day while I work at my desk. She frequently appears on Zoom meetings. Most days we go for a walk in the middle of the day — an unusual and welcome event. I’m never gone at the office or events late into the evening. We are together in our safe, comfortable home.
But before the pandemic, Strummer went to a dog camp several days each week. She clearly misses the stimulation those days provided. She misses the company of other dogs and other people. She misses the exercise she enjoyed chasing and being chased. Even on walks, she only interacts with other dogs and neighbors from a distance. She also misses her broader family — no more visits by family and no trips to see them.
Strummer can’t complain. She knows she has a good life and is so grateful. But she is very much looking forward to that day when she can again spend time with her friends and broader family (human and canine). When she can stop and greet up-close another dog out for a walk or sit on a neighbor’s porch. When she can travel. When days are more easily distinguished from each other.
What is the most creative or productive response to the crisis you’ve witnessed so far?
Prior to the pandemic, Legal Aid engaged volunteers to meet clients where they are. We conducted “brief advice clinics” one to two days each week in the community — at the library, community center or social service agency. We provided advice to individuals on a wide variety of topics, engaging lawyers from all sorts of work settings. We met so many needs at once — the needs of clients, of partner organizations, and of attorneys who want to give back.
Because of the pandemic, we of course had to cancel those events. It’s hard to even imagine now — asking 50-70 people to gather together. But the need is greater than ever. And so many attorneys have reached out, asking for an opportunity to serve their community in this crisis.
Within two weeks of moving to our new work-at-home environment, we launched a virtual advice clinic and a worker information line. We asked for volunteers, and lawyers responded in force. We leveraged our technology. We got the word out to the client community about the services available. We found a new way to engage volunteers and meet the community’s needs. We replaced a service-delivery mechanism that was totally reliant on physical presence with one that is absolutely virtual. And we aren’t stopping there. We are learning from this experience to create more ways of service clients and engaging volunteers.
from Lakewood Observer: The Legal Aid Society Of Cleveland Calls For Pro Bono Help Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is calling on attorneys, paralegals, law students, and law graduates to use their expertise to support the many people made vulnerable by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, due to limited resources, Legal Aid had to turn away nearly half of the people who sought help. As the need in the community skyrockets, additional resources are more critical than ever.
Legal Aid remains open and fully operational to represent clients, empower individuals with information and expert guidance, and advocate for justice at the policy level. While all four physical offices are closed, Legal Aid’s entire staff is working from home. Online intake is open 24/7 and phone intake is available during select business hours. Even so, Legal Aid will not be able to meet the needs of a growing client population without pro bono assistance from Northeast Ohio’s legal community.
Due to the pandemic, Legal Aid expects an increase in cases related to debt and bankruptcy, employment law and unemployment compensation, wage theft, housing stability, and domestic violence. Legal professionals can help those struggling with these issues in a variety of ways, at various levels of time commitment. Opportunities include: taking on a case; providing brief advice over the phone, participating in a “virtual” advice clinic, and helping Legal Aid with a project.
Attorneys can register to volunteer at: lasclev.org/volunteer/covid19/. Law students, paralegals, and law graduates can register at: lasclev.org/volunteer/register/. You will be contacted by someone at Legal Aid after your registration. Legal Aid attorneys provide full support for volunteers – including, but not limited to: malpractice insurance, litigation support, mentoring, and training.
If you are in need of civil legal assistance, you can always contact Legal Aid at lasclev.org/contact , or by calling Legal Aid’s toll free number: 888-817-3777.
Together, with your help, we can persevere through these times and extend justice throughout our community.
from Patch: LakewoodAlive to Host “Unemployment & COVID-19” Webinar on May 7
LakewoodAlive announces it will host a free webinar presentation – entitled Unemployment & COVID-19 – on Thursday, May 7 from 10 to 11 a.m. focused on delivering pertinent unemployment-related information to both our small business partners and community residents.
A panel of experts representing Cuyahoga County, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and Yourkvitch & Dibo, LLC will discuss best practices for navigating unemployment, provide answers to common questions and offer essential information to assist both employees and employers during this unprecedented time. Webinar participants will be able to ask questions during the presentation.
Panelists will offer expertise related to the following topics:
- Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services unemployment process and resources
- Resources available through Cuyahoga County to support small businesses and their employees
- Workers’ rights and unemployment compensation
- Unemployment discrimination – learning more to benefit the employee and the employer
Small business partners and community residents are invited to participate by registering here. Space for attending this webinar is limited, and those interested in participating are urged to register ahead of time. A recording of this presentation will be shared at a later date.
Panelists for this webinar include:
- Michele Pomerantz, Office of County Executive, Armond Budish
Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
- Mason Pesek, Staff Attorney
Yourkvitch & Dibo
- Representatives from this Cleveland-based law firm
Unemployment & COVID-19 marks the latest in LakewoodAlive’s ongoing efforts – in partnership with the City of Lakewood and Lakewood Chamber of Commerce – to assist Lakewood’s small business community during this uncertain time. To learn more, please visit our webpage (LakewoodAlive.org/COVID19) devoted to compiling resources for assisting Lakewood small businesses during this crisis.
from News 5 Cleveland: Legal experts answer common questions about returning to work during the pandemic
As Ohioans begin to go back to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re asking legal experts what your boss can and cannot make you do.
What if you don’t feel safe returning to the workplace?
Legal experts say fear is not a legal reason to refuse to work. They say unless you have a qualifying physical or mental health condition under the Americans with Disability Act, you likely are not legally protected to protest that request.
“Generally speaking, if someone is being called back to work, the expectation is that they return, and we are certainly cautioning people that if they refuse to return to work, and they are currently receiving unemployment benefits, that refusal will cut them off from getting unemployment,” said Julie Cortes, supervising attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
She said if you have a qualifying condition, there still has to be a conversation with your employer about requesting a reasonable accommodation.
And just this weekend, Ohio’s lieutenant governor spoke about possible accommodations for people who have a health vulnerability or who don’t have child care. However, he gave no details about what those accommodations may look like.
Can your employer require temperature and symptom checks and require you to stay home?
“It is fine for employers to do temperature checks and ask employees to report whether they’re symptomatic, and if they report that they’re symptomatic or showing signs of the virus, they can be sent home,” said Cortes. “That’s for the safety of everyone in that workplace as well as non-employees who may be entering that space.”
Will workers’ compensation cover me if I get COVID-19 on the job?
“Workers’ compensation still has that big causation issue,” said Andrew Margolius, of Margolius, Margolius & Associate. “So, the employee has to show that they caught this virus at the workplace. Much easier said than done, but it depends on the industry.”
What if your employer is not following the mandatory operating requirements for safety established by the state?
“If that employee sees that there are not workplace precautions taking place, they can contact HR,” he said. “Put something in writing. Identify there is a work hazard, maybe they might even have whistleblower status.”
Margolius said to put it in writing and send it to your supervisor, boss and human resources, and print a copy for your own records.
The governor’s office says employees who believe their employer is not following the safety guidelines in the order should call their local health department.
Bottom line: legal experts say both employer and employee are navigating uncharted territory and encourage as much open dialog between both as possible.
from CNN: Can you pay the rent on May 1? Here’s what to do if you can’t
Trent Gardner worked as a bartender at Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Las Vegas for ten years until he was furloughed in March. He used savings to pay April’s rent. But even though he’s now on unemployment and received some stimulus money, he won’t be able to pay his $1,500 May rent, and still provide necessities for his 16-year-old daughter and himself.
“I’ve never been late on a rent payment,” he said. “This is a new situation for a lot of us.”
When he asked his landlord about rent relief last month, the company said tenants could defer payments for 90 days, but stipulated the full back rent would be due at the end of the lease. With his lease up in June, Gardner decided he couldn’t risk having to come up with several months of payments all at once, especially with his financial future so uncertain.
“Everything will change, but I don’t know how,” he said. “I can’t even answer for myself whether my job will come back. How can you say where you are going to be if you don’t know what you have coming in?”
Across the country, tenant advocates and housing lawyers are sounding alarms that an increasing number of renters will not be able to pay rent on May 1st. What’s more, they are concerned many renters will lose their homes as suspensions on evictions phase out and rent relief is not widely available.
If you can’t pay your rent, this is what you should do.
Know the tenant protections where you live
The best protection for renters right now are the eviction moratoriums. But coverage is patchy, varying by state, county and city.
Knowing the status of evictions where you live helps you know your rights and protections.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes a 120-day moratorium on evictions and late fees for properties that are secured by a government-backed mortgage. Many states also have temporary eviction moratoriums in place. The Department of Housing and Urban Development provides coronavirus-related updates on housing relief from each state, and Nolo, a legal services website, keeps track of coronavirus-related tenant protections.
“You can only make decisions if you have this information: Can evictions happen now where you are? If not, when will they open up again?” said Rachel Garland, managing attorney for the Housing Unit at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.
This can help you in asserting your rights.
“We’re seeing illegal lockouts,” said Michael Trujillo, housing staff attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley in San Jose, California. “There are landlords threatening to evict the tenants without going through the judicial processes, even after those tenants have explained their Covid-related financial struggles and an eviction moratorium.”
If this happens to you, he said, seek legal aid.
Talk with your landlord and document your requests
For the majority of people who are not being hassled by a landlord, start a conversation about your inability to pay.
“Talk to your landlord and explain what you can and can’t do,” said Garland. ‘What is your goal? If you want to stay, tell your landlord, ‘I am committed to making this work, I don’t know how, but I am going to try.’ You may want to leave. Decide on a mutually agreed upon departure plan.”
Your landlord may accept partial payment or allow for you to defer your rent for a time. But just keep in mind: A deferral or reduction in rent is not rent forgiveness and you will need to be clear with your landlord about when the back rent will be due.
Landlords don’t have to let you defer payments, said Ariel Levinson-Waldman, director and counsel of Tzedek DC, an independent public interest center at the University of the District of Columbia. “But many understand that something is better than nothing and will accept an offer to defer, delay or reduce a payment.”
Document your requests, advocates say, and be wary of a landlord pressuring you to sign a payment agreement.
“It is smart to reach out to landlords,” said Trujillo. “But I hope that tenants don’t feel pressured to sign anything they don’t think they can uphold.”
If you are covered by an eviction moratorium, make sure you do what is required to be protected by it. This may vary but may involve collecting documentation of your coronavirus-related hardship, like a notice of a furlough or layoff, and a copy of the notification of your inability to pay that you provided your landlord.
“If a family has lost all their income because of a job loss as a result of Covid-19, that family shouldn’t be making a choice between paying rent or paying for food,” said Trujillo. “They should let their landlord know they aren’t paying rent and provide documentation to be protected from eviction. They can use their money on other basic necessities.”
Connect with relief resources and other tenants
There may be rent relief resources available locally.
For example, the Dallas City Council approved a total of $13.7 million in relief to help pay rent, mortgages and utilities for residents who are unemployed or furloughed because of the coronavirus. Eligible households could get up to $1,500 for a maximum of three months.
If you are a tenant in subsidized housing who is experiencing hardship because of coronavirus, Hazel Remesch, a supervising attorney at Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Ohio, recommends going back to the agency administering your program and notifying them that your income has changed.
“If you report it, the agency can adjust your rent.” she said.
Connecting with other tenants through associations in your building or larger networks can be empowering, said Trujillo.
“That can be really helpful for information sharing and to find out about available resources,” he said. “In a larger building, tenants have much more power when they are bargaining as an organized body.”
Generally, securing payment relief is on the tenant and is not likely to become available unless you ask.
“Know that you’re not alone,” said Levinson-Waldman. “Sometimes people experience real shame. But there is nothing to be ashamed about here. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
from News 5 Cleveland: Local COVID-19 legal issues have CLE legal aid responding with virtual phone bank
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland reports the on-going COVID-19 pandemic is creating a host of legal issues now being faced by hundreds of residents here in northeast Ohio.
News 5 and the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland are responding, teaming-up for a virtual phone bank to answer COVID-19 legal questions on Friday, April 24, from 4 to 6:30 PM. The number to call our phone bank is 1-800-658-5370.
Residents will also be able to get their legal questions answered during a Facebook live on the News 5 Facebook page from 4:30 to 5 PM.
The phone bank is part of News 5’s The Rebound: Northeast Ohio initiative designed to provide crucial information to our viewers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dinola Phillips, staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland told News 5 with so many on people laid off and waiting for unemployment, a growing number of tenants are finding it difficult to pay the rent and may be facing eviction.
Phillips said it’s crucial tenants, who don’t have funds for rent, communicate immediately with their landlord and the courts if they get a summons, and to try to work out a payment plan.
“Get that agreement in writing, whether it’s an actual handwritten note that the landlord signs, or a text message, get some type of documentation,” Phillips said.
“Communicate with the court, courts are amending and changing their guidelines and their policies daily, so what may have been the information and guidance last week may have been changed.”
Julie Cortez, attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, told News 5 many are fighting for benefits and are dealing with legal issues and delays during the pandemic.
“I would say right now probably the biggest issue is unemployment and the number of unemployed workers,” Cortez said.
“There’s a lot people in a position where they’ve never had to access unemployment before, so it can be a confusing process.”
“I think there is a lot of frustration, people need money for food, and to pay their bills.”
Legal aid has responded with a coronavirus FAQ, and separate worker and tenant information lines.
The worker information line is 216-861-5899 in Cuyahoga County, call 440-210-4532, if you live in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake or Lorain County.
The tenant information line is 216-861-5955 in Cuyahoga County. Call 440-210-4533, if you live in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake or Lorain County.
COVID-19 News for Community Partners from Legal Aid
Dear Community Partner: Please see important updates related to Legal Aid and other community services during COVID-19 in the message below–
- Urgent action needed for Social Security recipients with children!
- NEW Worker Information Line hosted by Legal Aid
- Legal Aid is helping tenants maintain housing through the pandemic
- Many people are entitled to the economic stimulus payment
- Everyone expecting a stimulus payment should be careful to avoid scams
- The EITC in Cuyahoga County is launching virtual tax preparation services
- Legal Aid is open: apply for help online 24/7 or by phone during most business hours
Questions? Contact Anne Sweeney, Managing Attorney for Community Engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Federal Updates (TIME SENSITIVE!):
Urgent action needed for Social Security recipients with children! Social Security Beneficiaries with Dependents and Who Do Not File Tax Returns MUST ACT BY WEDNESDAY 4/22 to Receive $500 Per Child Payment.
Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability insurance beneficiaries with dependent children and who did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes should immediately go to the IRS webpage at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here and visit the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here section to provide their information. They need to act by Wednesday, April 22, in order to receive additional payments for their eligible children quickly. By doing so, they may receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to their $1,200 individual payment. We strongly encourage completing this process promptly, in order to avoid having to wait to file a tax year 2020 tax return to obtain the additional $500 per eligible child.
SSI recipients need to take this action by later this month; a specific date will be available soon.
Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients with no qualifying children under age 17 will receive their Economic Impact Payments soon, and do not need to take any action.
Those with Direct Express debit cards who enter information at the IRS’s website should complete all of the mandatory questions, but they may leave the bank account information section blank as Treasury already has their Direct Express information on file.
For more information, please read the new press release from Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul.
You can also find more detailed information about the economic stimulus payments at www.lasclev.org/coronavirus.
Legal Aid Updates:
Legal Aid launched a new Worker Information Line to answer questions about employment benefits, worker rights and unemployment compensation. Callers are invited to leave a short message including name and number, and they will get a call back within 24-48 business hours. Call –216-861-5899 in Cuyahoga County and call 440-210-4532 in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain Counties. More information is available at https://lasclev.org/workerinfoline/.
Legal Aid is helping tenants maintain housing through the pandemic. In partnership with EDEN, Legal Aid is providing counsel and advice, as well as access to emergency rental assistance, for low income tenants. These services are for (1) individuals/families that but for this assistance would become homeless; (2) households experiencing decline in income, job loss, weekly wage reduction or other financial challenges stemming from COVID-19 related matters; and (3) owe back rent. Clients who meet these criteria should apply by calling 1-888-817-3777 or online at www.lasclev.org/contact.
Most people with income below $75,000 (for individuals) or $150,000 (for couples) are entitled to an economic stimulus payment. If you regularly file taxes, you may get your stimulus check automatically. More info on the stimulus check for tax filers is here. If you do not regularly file taxes, you can sign up for your stimulus check by using the new “non-filer” tool created by the IRS. More information on the stimulus check for “non-filers” is here.
Everyone expecting a stimulus payment should be careful to avoid scams. Several schemes are being used to steal money from people related to stimulus payments. Read this additional information about common scams and be sure to report any suspicious conduct.
Legal Aid posts several FAQs related to protections and benefits during COVID-19. Visit www.lasclev.org/coronavirus to view Frequently Asked Questions related to COVID-19 and the following topics:
- Community Resources
- Consumer Protections
- Education Rights
- Family Law
- Housing Protections
- Immigration Rules
- Nonprofits and Small Businesses
- Public Benefits
- Utility Protections
- Worker Rights and Benefits
Legal Aid is open: apply for help online 24/7 or by phone during most business hours. Requests for help with employment issues increased by 105% compared to this time last year.
- Click here to apply online 24/7
- Call 1-888-817-3777 (M,W,F from 9 am – 4 pm and T, Th from 9 am – 2 pm)
The Cuyahoga Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition is launching virtual tax preparation services. This free service for low income residents replaces the usual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Individuals in need of help will have 3 options for how to access assistance, depending on personal preference and access to technology. The EITC will also help non-filers register for their stimulus checks via the IRS non-filer tool. To request services, send an email to email@example.com with client’s name, phone number and what assistance they need. A volunteer from the EITC will call to follow up. In the meantime, the Coalition will return to in-person tax preparation assistance as soon as the Governor lifts the stay at home order.
from News 5 Cleveland: Get your legal questions answered Friday during phone bank, Facebook Live with legal experts
On Friday, April 24, News 5 is partnering with The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland to help answer any legal questions you may have during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday, a News 5 phone bank will be open with legal experts from The Legal Aid Society so that you can chat privately about any legal issues you may have that arose from the pandemic and its impact on our area. The number to call our phone bank is 1-800-658-5370.
At 4:30 p.m., News 5’s Joe Pagonakis will be hosting a Facebook Live chat on the News 5 Cleveland Facebook page with one of The Legal Aid Society’s experts so you can have your questions answered live on Facebook.
If you’re unable to join us on Facebook or during our phone bank, you can contact The Legal Aid Society toll-free at 888-817-3777 or visit www.lasclev.org for more information.
from Patch.com: Update From Cleveland Heights City Manager Tanisha R. Briley
Happy Earth Day! Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Looking for some activities for your kids? Here are some suggestions to educate and promote Earth Day.
Just a reminder, today is the deadline for Social Security recipients, survivors and disability insurance beneficiaries with dependent children, who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019, to apply to receive the $500 per child stimulus payment (in addition to the up to $1200 individual payment). You will need to immediately go to IRS and visit the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here section to provide necessary information. If action is not taken promptly, you will have to wait until you file 2020 tax returns to obtain the $500 payment per eligible child. For more information, please read the new press release from Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul. Also, you can find more detailed information about the economic stimulus payment at www.lasclev.org/coronavirus.
Legal Aid has also launched a new Worker Information Line answer questions about employment benefits, worker rights, and unemployment compensation. Callers are invited to leave a short message including their name and number, and you will get a call back within 24-48 business hours. Call 216-861-5899 in Cuyahoga County. They are also helping tenants maintain housing throughout the pandemic. Clients who meet certain criteria may be eligible for help and should apply by calling 1-888-817-3777 or online at www.lasclev.org/contact. Additionally, you can view Frequently Asked Questions related to COVID-19.
The Home Repair Resource Center is performing its housing counseling services remotely for mortgage/foreclosure delinquency, rental assistance, utility service resources, home repair referrals and assistance, and financial coaching and planning.
Monday, Governor DeWine announced that Ohio’s K-12 classrooms will remain closed through the remainder of this school year. The governor said the move is necessary to both slow the spread of the new virus and to give schools time to figure out how to best protect vulnerable students.
Parents looking for some great social distancing ideas that the whole family can enjoy should check out Northeast Ohio Parent. Also, check out https://www.northeastohioparen….
And, these social media channels provide more activities and ideas too:
- Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library
- Great Lakes Science Center
- The Children’s Museum of Cleveland
- Cleveland Museum of Natural History
- Cleveland Museum of Art
- Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
As a reminder, each weekday during the extended closure, free breakfast and lunch is available for your children. Visit the CH-UH Schools website for a list of pickup locations.
Action Needed for Social Security Beneficiaries with Dependents Who Did Not File Tax Returns to Receive $500 Per Child Payment
Social Security recipients who are retirees, survivors, or disability insurance beneficiaries: If you have dependent children and did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes, you should immediately go to the IRS’ webpage and visit the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here section to provide your information. You must act by Wednesday, April 22, in order to receive additional payments for eligible children quickly. By doing so, you may receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to your $1,200 individual payment. We strongly encourage completing this process promptly, in order to avoid having to wait to file a tax year 2020 tax return to obtain the additional $500 per eligible child.
SSI recipients need to take this action by later this month; a specific date will be available soon.
Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients with no qualifying children under age 17 will receive their Economic Impact Payments soon, and do not need to take any action.
Those with Direct Express debit cards who enter information at the IRS’s website should complete all of the mandatory questions, but may leave the bank account information section blank as Treasury already has their Direct Express information on file.
For more information, please read the new press release from Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul.
You can also find more detailed information about the economic stimulus payments at www.lasclev.org/coronavirus.
from ideastream: How Do Northeast Ohio’s Homeless Receive Their Federal Stimulus Checks?
The federal government began distributing stimulus checks last week and local advocacy groups are working to help make sure at-risk populations get their funds — including those without a permanant address.
Filling out the IRS’ online non-filer form requires both an internet connection and mailing address or bank account information. That’s difficult for the homeless, said Molly Martin with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH).
NEOCH is working with the West Side Catholic Center to send volunteers to meet with people to help them fill out the form, Martin said, using the center’s address to receive the check.
“There are a lot of churches and social service providers who provide mail services for people who don’t have an address,” Martin said. “We’re just making sure with our partners that that’s a question that they’re asking when they’re doing outreach with people who are unsheltered.”
With more public spaces such as libraries closed by pandemic restrictions, Martin said there are fewer options for people experiencing homelessness to go online and fill out the form on their own.
“We’re assuming that we’re going to need a worker who has a cell phone with internet access to go through the form with that person,” Martin said.
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is creating additional methods to aid those impacted economically by the coronavirus, said staff attorney Jennifer Kinsley.
The organization recently started a workers’ information phone line to provide details about unemployment benefits due to a heightened number of calls, Kinsley said, and people are also calling with questions about the $1,200 stimulus checks.
“Because obviously, people with the greatest need are the people having trouble accessing this right now,” Kinsley said.
Legal Aid is working to implement virtual advice clinics and other methods of communicating options with the public, she said.
“Most service entities are definitely seeing a big increase in the individuals who need help right now,” Kinsley said. “We’re all trying to come up with the fastest and best way to get them the resources available.”
The quickest way to get the stimulus check is by opening an online bank account or using an approved prepaid card from a retailer like Walmart or 7-11, Kinsley said. Both options usually require an address and a government-issued form of identification, or access to internet and a mailing address.
“There’s a lot of confusion and concern for individuals who don’t have a bank account or an address for the method of delivery of this check,” Kinsley said.
Anyone needing to change their address in order to receive the check can do so through the IRS or U.S. Postal Service, Kinsley said, but the change-of-address process needs to be completed before the check is mailed.
The Ohio Secretary of State also offers a Safe at Home program for victims of domestic violence, stalking or similar crimes. The program provides a safe and secure mailing address for those who need to shield personal information from public records.
from Court News Ohio: Legal Aid Community Concerned about COVID-19 Consequences
The judicial system has slowed, and even halted in some respects, as courts contend with the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19). One of the most affected groups of the pandemic are legal aid professionals, and the low-income Ohioans they serve.
Ohio Access to Justice Foundation executive director Angela Lloyd and the more than 500 legal aid professionals at various organizations statewide have been working remotely for weeks, carrying on the mission to assist at-risk citizens in need by phone, email, or video conference, and through the Ohio Legal Help website.
“All of Ohio’s legal aid lawyers are heroes, and want to be somebody who’s part of the answer, but they are also appropriately social distancing, and, at the same time, helping Ohioans,” Lloyd said.
As the head of the foundation that funds Ohio’s legal aid organizations that have a lot of face-to-face interaction with clients on both small and large scales, Lloyd noted isolated work fronts due to COVID-19 have highlighted some challenges in serving all the people who need their assistance.
“There have been tremendous efforts made to make sure people can weather this storm, and yet there are still a lot of people who may fall outside of our legal support safety net,” Lloyd said.
Whether it’s an elderly person with financial and technological constraints, or a documented immigrant afraid of requesting social assistance, Lloyd says these uncertain times illustrate how societal health and well-being partly hinges on people’s legal health.
“It matters that people are financially stable. It matters that people have access to health care. It matters that people are safely, and stably, housed. It doesn’t matter to just that person, it matters to our whole community,” Lloyd said.
Currently, legal aid societies are managing with the limitations. But the bigger concern for them lies ahead. Large portions of their funding come from court filing fees and the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA).
With the volume of filings down due to reduced court operations, and certain banks lowering interest rates, that means less money in the future while a massive spike in cases is looming when business picks up in the justice system. Members of the National Association of IOLTA Programs project their revenues will drop by as much as 75 percent over the next year, which will force them to sharply reduce legal aid grants to hundreds of organizations.
“I have great hope that folks will step up, not just with their volunteer time, but with their dollars,” Lloyd said.
Some supplemental resources are on the horizon. Congress allocated $50 million of its $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and, Economic Security Act for legal aid nationwide. Lloyd added that philanthropic organizations, such as the Cleveland, Columbus, and Greater Cincinnati Foundations, have pooled emergency response funds to help Ohio’s legal aid and others.
These types of emerging partnerships are a silver lining amid the pandemic. While people may be separated, physically, the adversity has spiritually unified legal aid professionals and their supporters. They are committed to enduring the present setbacks together, and are unified in providing the guiding legal light for Ohioans struggling to remained housed and financially secure during the pandemic. It’s part of a solidarity that continually works toward a greater purpose.
“I think one of the positives of this will be people’s appreciation of their interconnectedness, and their ability to positively impact and touch other people,” Lloyd said.
from WKYC: IRS site goes live with direct deposit for stimulus checks
More than three weeks after Gov. Mike DeWine announced the closing of all essential business, nearly 700,000 people have applied for unemployment benefits in Ohio. But many workers still haven’t received anything, and may have lost hope.
“I put an email on Facebook the other day and I said, ‘Does anybody else cry in the shower?'” Pam Baron of Rocky River told us, adding she’s received one thousand responses every day.
Baron was one of those who cried, until this week. That’s when she found out she was approved for a $20,000 small business loan. Her stimulus check also arrived, as did her unemployment check and the additional $600 dollars a week that was promised as part of the CARES Act.
However, it didn’t come easy. After weeks of waiting for her SBA loan to be approved, she called back and discovered she needed to file an addendum.
“So I filled out those questions, and then woke up this morning to the Small Business loan being deposited into our account,” she said.
Like most people, she also couldn’t get through to unemployment. Instead of waiting on hold for days, she faxed her information to Jobs and Family Services to the number listed on its website. She suggests people who’ve already applied should do the same, as well as regularly check their emails for a response, including in their spam folder.
In the meantime, there’s a company that’s helping people file for unemployment free of charge, and they say they can do it in minutes.
It’s called Do Not Pay, a service which also helps people do things like fight parking tickets or navigate the small claims process. For unemployment, a chatbot asks you a few questions, then mails in a paper application for you.
“It’s almost like paper voting,” CEO Joshua Bower said. “That idea can be applied to other areas of bureaucracy where it’s actually more secure and efficient in some strange way.”
The Legal Aid Society in Cleveland has opened a renters and workers information line, where they’ll help people in Northeast Ohio get benefits and advise them of their rights with employers.
Finally, regarding those stimulus checks, the reason Pam got hers so quickly is because she was signed up with Direct Deposit, which now, you can too.
The IRS’s new portal is up and running at IRS.gov. Go to the Coronavirus Economic Impact Payments section and click “Get My Payment” to provide your information.
Pam’s one message to everyone struggling is there is hope.
“I know the stimulus stuff is coming,” she said. “It’s coming in waves. But hopefully you’ll wake up tomorrow and you will have this money in your account, for people who can’t afford to put food on the table.”
Cuyahoga County Makes Emergency Funds Available for Families Impacted by COVID19
A limited amount of emergency assistance funds are now available to Cuyahoga County families who meet certain requirements and have faced economic hardship due to COVID19.
Eligible recipients must:
- Be a U.S. citizen or qualified alien
- Have a family income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level
- Live with at least one minor child OR
- are pregnant OR
- are the non-custodial parent of a child
from Fox 8 News: Legal Aid launches ‘Worker Information Line’ for people impacted by coronavirus pandemic
Calling for help in Northeast Ohio is now easier for people whose jobs have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland has launched a new free tool called the Worker Information Line.
“That is designed to be a quick resource for people who have questions about employment issues and unemployment issues,” explained Katherine Hollingsworth, the managing attorney of the Legal Aid’s economic justice practice. “A lot of people are looking for reliable information, trustworthy information and are not sure where to get it.”
You can call the worker information line and leave a message at any time, and their goal is to return that call within one to two business days. Their staffers will return calls Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is one number for Cuyahoga County residents and another for those in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain Counties.
“There are a lot of questions about these new federal programs that are being rolled out, these expansions of the unemployment system and people want to know ‘Am I eligible for those?’” said Hollingsworth.
Other common questions involve getting state unemployment benefits.
“While there are still a lot of unknowns about how some of these systems are gonna work and some of these programs are gonna be rolled out, we want to make sure that people have access to the information that is available,” she said.
Hollingsworth says they are working with other Legal Aids and state agencies to have the most up to date information for the caller.
If someone’s question turns out to be a legal issue, they will be referred to the intake department for follow up.
Those who are facing housing challenges can contact the already established tenant information line.
“They’re getting lots of calls every day about tenant issues and certainly questions about what do I do if I can’t pay rent this month and that for some people is very new,” said Hollingsworth.
The legal aid is also starting a free virtual advice clinic, just like the in-person clinics they’ve provided, connecting people with private attorneys. This way they say they can keep people safe while providing important information to those who need it.
“Attornies in the private bar really do seem interested in wanting to do more,” she said.
While their doors are physically closed, Hollingsworth says the staff is there to listen and help at a time that is financially destabilizing and uncharted territory for so many.
“We want to hear from the community and be a resource and support as much as we can,” she said.
To reach the Worker Information Line for Cuyahoga County call 216-861-5899. Those in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain Counties can call 440-210-4532.
Akron Beacon Journal: Ohio workers await expanded unemployment benefits
The $2.2 trillion stimulus plan passed by Congress includes expanded unemployment benefits for workers and money for those typically ineligible for benefits. But the state says it isn’t in position yet to process claims under the relief package.
In normal times, Diana Fiore of Mayfield Heights wouldn’t qualify for unemployment benefits under Ohio’s rules.
Fiore, 39, lost her job as a nail technician after the northeastern Ohio salon where she worked was closed because of the coronavirus outbreak. Her part-time job, though, doesn’t pay enough to meet the $269-a-week minimum requirement the state has set to collect benefits, so her application was denied.
She said friends have been denied benefits for the same reason.
“I work minimum hours during the week, but the government also takes out taxes on me,” she said. “Should there be these rules and stipulations? It’s heartbreaking.″
The good news for Fiore and others like her is that help is on the way. The bad news is that the state isn’t ready to start handing out money to workers who desperately need it.
The $2.2 trillion relief package passed by Congress makes low-wage workers such as Fiore eligible for benefits. It also will help other workers typically ineligible for help, including the self-employed contract workers and “gig″ workers such as ride-share drivers.
On top of the state unemployment benefit, $380 a week on average, the legislation extends the length of time that recipients can receive benefits up to 39 weeks and gives them an additional $600 a week beyond their regular benefit.
“This is going to provide significant help when we are finally able to see it fully implemented,” said Zach Schiller, research director at liberal-leaning Policy Matters.
The problem is that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, overwhelmed by a deluge of claims from people who have been laid off because of the coronavirus outbreak, is unable to process claims yet under the federal relief package that would benefit Fiore and other workers.
The state is contracting with a vendor to build a new system to handle these claims and comply with guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor that was issued last Sunday.
JFS says it doesn’t know when the new system will be ready, only that it is working as fast as possible. Benefits will be awarded retroactively.
“As soon as that system is ready to accept new applications, we will inform folks how to apply,” spokesman Bret Crowe said.
The state also plans to revamp its website to incorporate information on pandemic-related claims. Meanwhile, it continues to struggle under the avalanche of claims it already has received.
In the three-week period that ended last Saturday, Ohio has received 696,519 claims for benefits. That’s twice the number of claims it handled for all of 2019.
So far, it has paid $124 million in benefits to 195,000 people.
To handle the influx of claims, JFS has bolstered its staff to handle calls and has expanded hours of operation. Its call center is now operating seven days a week and it has about 1,000 staff members taking calls.
It also has added computer servers and other hardware.
Other states have had trouble handling the surge in claims. In Florida, workers, some wearing masks, lined up this week to get paper applications for benefits as the state struggled to handle online claims.
Ohio workers say they struggle to get through to anyone at JFS, and when they get email from the state they can’t open it. JFS blamed the email issue on the high claims volume.
“It’s really unfortunate because people desperately need this money,” Schiller said. “Car payments, rent, utility bills. The system was inadequate and under-invested in. It was allowed to get to a level that should never be permitted.”
The additional $600 a week is meant to cover additional wages for workers who are being told to stay home for now when, in normal times, they would be out looking for a new job, Schiller said.
“It’s so, so sad,” Fiore said. “It’s’a scary thing we’re gong through. I hope we’re all going to recover from this. Unemployment was supposed to be a simple thing, and people are still not getting it.″
While workers wait for the state to handle claims, they need to be talking to landlords, food banks and others to tide themselves over until benefits arrive, said Mason Pesek, staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
Pesek said he anticipates his office ramping up to help people who have been denied benefits.
“It is such an unpredictable time,” he said. “The state is trying to implement these programs as quickly as possible.″
From Crain’s Cleveland Business: UW commits $3 million over three years to promote housing stability
United Way of Greater Cleveland is committing $3 million over three years to promote housing stability and accelerate Right to Counsel-Cleveland (RTC-C), a program announced last fall that will provide eligible families with free legal representation in housing court, according to a news release.
Though these are commitments the organization has been prioritizing regardless, the COVID-19 pandemic and its ripple effects highlight the need for these services, said Augie Napoli, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland.
Data available before the COVID-19 outbreak indicate that roughly 9,000 evictions are filed in the city of Cleveland annually, 60% of which were filed against households with children, according to the release. Although new data is not yet available since the pandemic, the number of individuals and families at risk of eviction is expected to “dramatically increase,” as a result of the crisis, the release notes.
“Cleveland now has a crisis upon a crisis within our community,” Napoli said in a prepared statement. “Given our city already had some of the worst poverty rates in the nation for children, working adults and seniors before the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring Right to Counsel-Cleveland moves forward as planned is more important than ever. United Way of Greater Cleveland is proud to commit $3 million over the next three years to the program as part of our work within the Impact Institute, a cornerstone of our business transformation.”
RTC-C will provide Cleveland families with children who are facing eviction and living at or below the poverty line the right to free legal representation in Cleveland Housing Court beginning on July 1. Cleveland City Council last fall passed legislation establishing free legal counsel as a right for families meeting the criteria. Since the legislation passed, United Way of Greater Cleveland and Legal Aid have prepared to launch the program with services beginning this summer.
RTC-C will also aid families with other needed resources (like food, utilities and rental assistance) through CHN Housing Partner’s Family Stability Initiative and through United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 2-1-1 HelpLink, a free and confidential 24/7 service.
The program is based on a model that has been proven to support families and save millions of dollars in U.S. cities such as New York City, which experienced an 84% reduction in evictions for tenants with legal representation and an estimated cost savings of $320 million per year by preventing issues like family homelessness, according to the release.
The program is estimated to cost about $7 million over its first three years of operation. Napoli said the program continues to fundraise the remaining amount. United Way’s contribution of $3 million is made possible through principal gifts directed to the Impact Institute’s Housing Stability Solution Center, according to the release. Half of this commitment from United Way will be designated to Legal Aid to support the initiative, which will provide representation to an estimated 3,000 eligible cases annually.
Funds will also support evaluating the program, implementing a robust community education and awareness campaign and providing wraparound services for clients, according to the release
“We are eager to launch right to counsel in Cleveland Housing Court in 2020 with the City of Cleveland and United Way of Greater Cleveland,” said Colleen Cotter, Legal Aid executive director, in a prepared statement. “We are proud to be the first city in the United States to launch right to counsel with this unique public-private partnership.”
United Way of Greater Cleveland hired Julie Wisneski as program manager for RTC-C, working closely with the lead organizations to ensure the program’s success, according to the release.
Worker Information Line – Here to Answer Your Employment Questions!
Are you currently working or recently unemployed with questions about your rights at work or unemployment benefits?
Call Legal Aid’s Worker Information Line to learn about Ohio’s employment laws and unemployment benefits.
- Call 216-861-5899 in Cuyahoga County
- Call 440-210-4532 in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain Counties
Some common questions Legal Aid can answer are:
- How do I apply for Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits?
- What information will I need to apply for UC benefits?
- How many weeks of UC benefits can I receive?
- Do the new laws passed because of COVID-19 apply to me and my employer?
- How long does my former employer have to give me my final pay check?
Workers can call and leave a message at any time. Callers should clearly state their name, phone number and a brief description of their employment/unemployment compensation question. A Legal Aid staff member will return the call between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Calls are returned within 1-2 business days.
This number is for information only. Callers will get answers to their questions and will also receive information about their rights. Some callers may be referred to other organizations for additional help. Callers who need legal assistance may be referred to Legal Aid’s intake department.
How to File Your Weekly Job Search Claim Related to COVID-19
How to File Your Weekly Job Search Claim Related to COVID-19:
- Select “Yes” that you were able to work.
- Select “Yes” that you were physically and mentally able to work.
- Select “Yes” that you completed two work-search activities
- For the first “Work search activity completed,” answer “COVID-19;” for “Location of work search activity,” answer “Executive Order – Home;” for City, State, and Zip Code, use your home address.
- Select “Internet” as the method of completing the work search activity.
- For “if you applied for a position, please list it here,” answer “COVID-19 Executive Order.”
- Select any date listed.
- Select “Unknown” for the outcome of the work search activity.
- For f-j, repeat your answers from a-e.
- Answer the rest of the questions (4-7) truthfully and remember to report any earnings.
For a step-by-step guide with photos, look here: Instructions for Filing Weekly COVID-19 Claims
Family Matters: Do you want an Ohio Health Care Power of Attorney or Living Will?
The website link described here will take you to a new website where you can get help preparing Ohio’s Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and/or Ohio’s Living Will. These documents, also known as “advance directives,” can assist health care providers if you cannot communicate because of a serious illness or injury. A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to name someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. A Living Will allows you to state what type of medical care you want to receive if you are permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to communicate. You can also indicate your wishes regarding organ and tissue donation in a living will.
The “Access to Justice” or A2J website will ask you to enter information in order to prepare your documents. You will need the name and address of the person or people you want to identify in your Health Care Power of Attorney and/or Living Will. After you complete the online interview and print your documents, you need to read them and make sure they say what you want to happen. In some places, you can also add or omit certain instructions. Also, you will have to follow the instructions for having your signature on the documents witnessed or notarized. Lastly, you should deliver copies to your physician and the people named in the documents.
Before you go to the A2J website, you may want to review this helpful information – click here.
Make sure your computer is attached to a printer, so you can print these documents.
This information and the information provided on the A2J website cannot take the place of individual advice from a lawyer. Each person’s situation is different. You should contact a lawyer if you need legal representation or have questions about your legal rights and responsibilities.
If you plan to come to a Legal Aid Brief Advice Clinic, remember to bring all the documents with you. Attorneys will need the documents in order to advise you.
Family Matters: How do I Name a Durable Power of Attorney?
A durable power of attorney can be one of the most helpful estate planning tools a person uses, but it can also be very risky. A durable POA gives a person (who is called an “attorney in fact”) legal authority to act for another person in a variety of matters, including banking, benefits, housing, taxes, real estate, litigation, and more. (The durable POA is different from a Health Care Power of Attorney, which is the form used to appoint a person to make decisions about health care.)
A power of attorney can be limited or very broad in scope depending on what is needed. A properly written and executed durable POA can give someone a great deal of power over another person’s affairs, and should be carefully considered. Executing a power of attorney does not take away the ability of the principal — the person signing the power of attorney — to continue to conduct his own affairs.
When deciding who to name as “attorney in fact,” consider four things about potential people:
1) Trust. The person named in a POA must be trusted to do what the principal wants and needs. The “attorney in fact” must not use his authority to take advantage of the principal and cannot exceed the authority given to him.
2) Competency. The attorney in fact must be capable of handling the tasks the principal needs done. A person who must handle a complicated tax matter needs a different level of competency than someone who needs to make sure the rent is paid each month.
3) Capacity. The needs of the principal may change over time. The attorney in fact should have the time, energy, and willingness to help the principal as different situations arise.
4) Communication. The principal and the attorney in fact should be able to communicate clearly with each other. The principal needs to give directions about what she wants done under different circumstances, and the attorney in fact should be honest about what she is willing and able to do.
Ohio’s “power of attorney” form, along with tools and resources to help fill it out, can be found here. The POA form should be signed before a notary. The POA must be given to anyone or any institutions asked to rely on it, such as a bank or landlord. The POA lasts until the principal dies or says the power of attorney is no longer in effect. The POA must be recorded with the county if used for any transactions involving real property.
Older adults and people with disabilities or serious illness may apply to Legal Aid for help creating a durable power of attorney by calling 1-888-817-3777.
This article was written by Anne Sweeney and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!