With the pandemic entering its sixth month, thousands of Virginians face eviction as the economic slowdown has put so many out of work. Governor Ralph Northam announced yesterday a $4 million payment to the Legal Services Corporation of Virginia to hire more attorneys to represent those who will end up in court to challenge eviction notices. A moratorium on evictions expired on June 28 and was reinstated in August. That now runs out again on September 7. In the meantime, there are a lot of pending cases.
“Ten thousand eviction cases were docketed in Virginia courts from mid-July to August,” Northam said. “The Virginia Poverty Law Center estimates some 230,000 eviction cases could be filed through the end of this year.”
More than a million Virginians have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic began. The Northam administration has created a Rent and Mortgage Relief Program that has $50 million in funding, including $450,000 in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. Still, many of the eviction cases will proceed, and Northam said hiring more attorneys can help affected households navigate the process.
“Legal Aid makes a real difference if you’re facing eviction,” Northam said. “In fact, when Legal Aid attorneys represent people in eviction proceedings, 72 percent have successful outcomes.”
The $4 million payment consists of a $2 million repayment from IKEA for unemployment benefits its employees received from the state when stores were shut down in the early days of the pandemic. The other half comes from the proceeds of taxes on skills machines in Virginia.
For more on the state of evictions in the state of Virginia, read this August 31 article by Ned Oliver in the Virginia Mercury.