Eviction settlement program raises questions among applicants

Updated: Jul. 24, 2020 at 7:24 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Several renters who have applied for the eviction settlement program that the City of Memphis and Shelby County both approved are wondering why they have not received any help. Others are wondering why they were denied.

“I applied and I haven’t heard anything back from anyone,” said Ann.

Ann is one of several renters who lives in the Audubon Park Place Apartments and has applied for assistance through the eviction settlement program.

“I don’t have anywhere else that I can go at the moment, I’ve been trying to figure out another solution but I haven’t found anything yet,” said Ann.

The property manager says she’s working with all tenants and is aware of six tenants who have applied and says, “I know that five of the six people were denied, told that they could not be helped.”

Cindy Ettingoff, CEO for Memphis Area Legal Services, says over 1,000 people have applied, and they had to wait for the city to release the funds for the program in order to start helping renters.

“We really only started late last week. Yesterday there were at least three cases that had been completed,” said Ettingoff.

Ettingoff says in order for applicants to receive help, the landlord must be willing to work with them.

As for applicants like Ann, Ettingoff says, “odds are they have been approved,” and due to the overwhelming amount of cases Ettingoff asks for patience.

But, if you have been denied Ettingoff says it may be due to how the person answered the following questions.

  • Did you lose your job or were you furloughed due to COVID-19?
  • Did you have COVID-19? Were you asked to self-quarantine or were you required to take care of a family member who had COVID-19?
  • Did you have a child in a daycare facility that closed due to COVID-19 prompting you to become a caregiver?
  • Do you have another option for housing?

“You should either, only be denied because you’re arrearage was not due to COVID-19, or because you’ve indicated that you have some other option for a place to stay,” said Ettingoff.

$2 million have been allocated for the program, but Ettingoff does not believe that is enough.

“It is simply that because there is a limited amount of money we’re trying to help those people who are most desperate,” said Ettingoff.

Ettingoff also says they will try and provide rent assistance until the month of August.

“So what we are trying to do is enter into a broad enough agreement that August is also part of that agreement,” said Ettingoff.

For applicants who have been denied Ettingoff suggests reaching out to other local organizations for rent assistance.

“CSA does have some money, sometimes MICAH has money, most catholic charities and specifically the St. Vincent De Paul chapters have money, not a lot of money,” said Ettingoff.

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