Few evictions have taken place in Santa Cruz County since the Supreme Court blocked the moratorium extension that prohibited evictions in late August, according to County Constable Eddie Huerta.
Within the past month, Huerta told the NI, he has performed about two evictions. That number isn’t much lower from pre-pandemic times when Huerta said he would perform about three evictions per month.
“A lot of people, because of the pandemic, they’re under the impression that they can’t do evictions,” Huerta said, adding that some landowners have opted for filing rental income losses on their taxes, rather than going through the evictions process.
After the eviction moratorium expired on July 31, the Centers for Disease Control issued another extension of the order three days later for counties with high levels of COVID-19 transmission. Santa Cruz County was covered by the extension.
But about three weeks later the Associated Press reported that the Supreme Court blocked the order, ruling that the CDC lacked the authority to reimpose the moratorium without the authorization from Congress.
That meant that residents in Santa Cruz County could once again face eviction. But Constable Huerta said that landowners had either opted out of filing for evictions, or tenants had found the proper financial assistance to catch up on rent.
He added that the two evictions he had fulfilled within the past month had been tenants who had destroyed property, not families enduring economic hardship due to the pandemic.
“When we’re serving the paperwork, when they do answer the door and we present that there’s an eviction process going on, we’ll let them know to call the county and that there’s means of help out there to pay the rent,” Huerta said.
County officials have emphasized an assistance program, granted through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, that is available for local residents who are facing financial hardships involving their housing expenses.
Earlier this year, the Arizona Department of Housing provided the county with a $500,000 grant, known as the Emergency, Rent, Utility and Mortgage Assistance (ERUMA), to help local families that have suffered economic losses due to the pandemic.
Special projects coordinator Mary Dahl previously told the NI that the grant consisted of two key eligibility requirements: the applicant must prove a low to moderate income, which varies by household size, and show that they suffered an economic loss due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That could mean that an individual lost their job or work hours, a family member got sick, or a parent had to stay home with the kids during the schools’ distance learning.
Dahl was unable to provide specifics on the amount of people who have received ERUMA assistance or how much of the grant money is left.
But, she added: “We’re still accepting applications from people who qualify. We have more than sufficient funds to help people who are eligible.”