W.Va. officials discuss evictions issue during COVID-19

Published: Sep. 9, 2020 at 11:06 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Even before COVID-19 hit, many Americans lived paycheck to paycheck and now with even more people out of work, paying rent or mortgages can feel almost impossible for some.

“I can tell you my personal feelings, I can plead with the landlords and everything, please don’t evict people now, please don’t do that,” said Gov. Jim Justice during his news briefing Wednesday. “But I don’t have the power to make law.”

Justice said the Supreme Court could possibly act or halt on eviction actions, if they so choose.

“It just takes cooperation and law all the way from the top down.”

WSAZ spoke with Ellen Allen, executive director of the Covenant House on Wednesday. The Covenant House is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the homeless but also stopping the problem before it starts.

“We’re getting twice the number of calls that we used to receive for potential evictions,” Allen said.

She said evictions have been a major problem since the pandemic began but have recently started rising in numbers. In just the last three weeks, they’ve kept an average of 15 people and their families from being evicted with financial assistance.

“We even know in West Virginia alone in July, 106,000 children lived in households that were behind at least one month on the rent and/or didn’t know where the next meal was going to come from.”

She said her organization is receiving some financial help from every level of government and is also relying on community donations. However, she would still like to see West Virginia follow suit with Kentucky’s order and use CARES Act funding to help as well.

“I would absolutely encourage CARES Act money to be considered because, this economy is only as strong and healthy as the people are within it and housing itself is an active health care while we’re battling once in a century pandemic.”

Allen said if you are struggling with staying inside your home to reach out to the Covenant House, you can do so by calling 304-344-8035 Ext. 45.

“We’re seeing and talking with people who never asked for help ever before, so if they can garner up the courage to make a phone call to us, we can sit down and talk,” she said.

WSAZ reached out to a spokesperson for Gov. Justice about using CARES Act funding, and they said they will be looking into it.

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