Jeff Penland picture

St. Joseph Housing Authority Executive Director Jeff Penland told News-Press NOW that Congress should pass legislation to help renters as a moratorium on evictions is set to expire at the end of 2020.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a nationwide moratorium on evictions, but bills remain due and renters may headed towards a cliff when the order expires.

Officials at both the local and federal level agree assistance is needed, but no relief legislation is readily impending.

“It’s time to have Congress to address the situation instead of fighting along partisan lines,” Jeff Penland, the executive director of the St. Joseph Housing Authority, said. “People are struggling, that’s a fact.”

A second round of stimulus relief has been stalled in Congress, under the partisan lines that Penland bemoans.

The Democratically controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a $3.4 trillion stimulus bill in May, but that bill hasn’t advanced in the Republican-controlled Senate.

On Thursday, a Republican-sponsored “skinny stimulus” bill also failed to advance past a procedural vote in the Senate without the support of a single Democrat. That bill also was opposed by Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Josh Hawley, one of Missouri’s Republican senators, told News-Press NOW it’s the fault of Democrats that action hasn’t been taken on evictions.

“This is probably something Congress ought to take up in COVID-19 relief legislation,” he said. “So I would call again on my Democratic colleagues, let’s put a bill on the floor and let’s get something done here in the next couple of weeks.”

Hawley said he would be “willing to negotiate” with Democrats on individual issues, like evictions, outside of an omnibus-style COVID-19 relief bill which would cover a multitude of issues.

“I’m totally opposed to spending money on a bailout for blue states and other nonsense like that,” Hawley said. “Let’s focus on working parents, working families, kids, parents with kids at home.”

Penland said many renters and landlords will have to work out repayment plans when the moratorium ends after Dec. 31.

“Try to figure out how to make that work,” Penland said. “More people are faced with the decision of meeting the requirements to look into housing assistance than ever before.”

Should a St. Joseph resident be faced with housing troubles, he or she can contact the Housing Authority at 816-236-8200.

Under the CDC’s current rule, renters may sign a declaration that they’re covered by the moratorium, in which case they cannot be evicted for failure to pay rent, but can be evicted for other reasons.

The declaration requires renters to have exhausted publicly available housing benefits and attest they’d have to move into some type of group living if evicted.

Matt Hoffmann can be reached at matt.hoffmann@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NpNowHoffmann.