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Legal Services of Greater Miami receives grant to help renters impacted by COVID-19 avoid eviction

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LSGMUp to 40 million U.S. renters may face eviction by the end of the year due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, according to research from the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.

While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a temporary moratorium halting the eviction of tenants who cannot pay rent through the end of the year, the moratorium requires that tenants must still file a federal declaration form to be eligible for the eviction protection. Additionally, tenants are obligated to navigate varying state laws and local legal proceedings.

Legal Services of Greater Miami October 7 announced a $300,000 two-year grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation which will enable the organization to provide free legal assistance and representation for people in Miami affected by COVID-19 and at-risk of eviction.

“Lack of legal representation for low-income people is a glaring equity gap,” said Rulon Washington, community outreach manager with the Wells Fargo Foundation. “We believe supporting efforts to provide low-income renters at risk with legal assistance is an important step in helping the most vulnerable people stay housed.”

Harvard researchers found an estimated 90% of landlords have legal representation, while only 10% of tenants do, putting them at a significant disadvantage. However, two-thirds of tenants with legal representation are more likely to avoid an eviction judgment and remain in their home.

“Wells Fargo Foundation recognizes the tremendous issue many tenants face as a result of COVID-19 and pulled through for our Miami-Dade neighbors,” said Monica Vigues-Pitan, executive director of Legal Services of Greater Miami. “This multi-year grant will ensure we have additional support to help keep tenants in their homes now and next year when the eviction moratorium concludes. We are ready, and this is thanks, in part, to Wells Fargo Foundation.”

In Miami-Dade, more than 200,000 households will likely be unable to pay their rent or mortgage payments, according to the Census Bureau estimates for September 2020.

As part of its $175 million response to COVID-19, the Wells Fargo Foundation has made more than 1,200 grants in support of national and local nonprofits to help keep people housed.

In addition to Legal Services of Greater Miami, other grantees include: Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Bay Area Legal Aid, Colorado Legal Services, Community Legal Services (Philadelphia, PA), Greater Miami Legal Services, Housing Opportunities Made Equal (Richmond, VA), Lawyers Committee for Better Housing (Chicago, IL), Legal Aid of North Carolina, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, National Housing Law Project, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, Texas Rio Grande Legal Services, and Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham.

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