Pima County working with urgency to prevent evictions as Supreme Court blocks moratorium

Pima County, Arizona — Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this week to block the Biden administration’s latest moratorium on residential evictions, Pima County is reminding local tenants and landlords that it is continuing efforts to provide assistance toward overdue rent and utility bills, as well as legal aid for households facing eviction.

“We have been working hard to provide additional rental assistance since the beginning of the pandemic and we will continue to do so with urgency,” said Dan Sullivan, director of Pima County’s Department of Community & Workforce Development. “Resources are still available to help qualified Pima County residents avoid evictions.”

Pima County, in partnership with the City of Tucson and the nonprofit Community Investment Corporation, has, as of Aug. 23, handled 3,846 local cases and distributed nearly $20 million in rental assistance and more than $1.6 million in utility assistance since March. More than 5,000 cases remain in the pipeline for aid.

The funds come from the first round of the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, or ERAP I. A total of $23.9 million, so far, has been paid or committed in Pima County from the program.

Landlords can apply for rental and utility assistance on behalf of their tenants, but households must also take part in the process in order to verify that they meet the income requirements for eligibility.

Eligible households can receive up to 12 months of back rent and up to three months of future rent, or a total of 15 months, under ERAP I. The program can also pay up to 12 months of overdue utility bills.

Tenants or landlords who want to apply or learn more about rental and utility assistance can go to TucsonPimaEP.com.

In addition to the rent and utility help, the County also has a program, Emergency Eviction Legal Services, that offers legal aid to tenants already involved in eviction proceedings. Tenants can see if they qualify for legal aid by going to www.pima.gov/EvictionLegalServices or by calling (520) 724-3357.

Andrew Flagg, deputy director of Pima County’s Community & Workforce Development Department, said, “Most tenants facing eviction cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Pima County’s new program will connect these tenants with lawyers, at no cost to them, helping level the playing field in court.

“We will also provide any party to an eviction case with a resource navigator, who can help walk parties through the process and connect them with other available resources, which might include rental assistance or help finding other housing or a job.”

While there are funds to assist households in distress, Sullivan acknowledges that there is a backlog of applicants and it can take weeks for a case to be processed and for payments to go out. He advises tenants and landlords to be patient.

Officials stress that landlords cannot be paid for back rent once they evict a tenant.

“This might be one of the few times in the history of the federal government when we have enough money to solve a problem,” Sullivan said. “Now we just have to make sure that money gets out into the community.”