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Arizona to distribute another $40 million in eviction aid, experts worry it's 'not enough'

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Posted at 6:18 AM, Dec 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-23 08:18:40-05

PHOENIX — President Donald Trump said Tuesday night he would not be signing the COVID stimulus bill. The decision impacts millions of Americans who are facing possible evictions on Jan. 1. The relief bill, if approved, is set to extend the eviction moratorium through Jan. 31.

Meanwhile, Governor Ducey announced Tuesday that Arizona will distribute more than $40 million it received from the federal government in order to prevent homeless and combat evictions.

The funds were provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program and its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

The money will be distributed by the Arizona Department of Economic Security and the Arizona Department of Housing, which will "solicit applications from local governments, non-profits or for-profit entities" who will then dole out the cash to "individuals or families affected by COVID-19 for items such as food, clothing, housing (emergency rental or mortgage assistance) or utilities for up to six consecutive months."

Everyday Crystal McGaw sees moving trucks at her Ahwatukee apartment complex.

"People are not willingly moving, it’s because of the situation. There’s a dire need," said McGaw. I’m pretty scared."

The mother is scared because she owes $5,694 in rent backpay, and it is getting worse.

"There’s a five-dollar-a-day charge until payment is received," said McGaw.

McGaw was laid off from two jobs in 2020, due to the pandemic and the elimination of her position. She also has health issues that prevent her from going into an office.

The mother though, who moved to Indiana in 2019 with her 15-year-old son, is considered one of the lucky ones.

"It was truly a blessing to have been selected," said McGaw.

McGaw applied in September for rental assistance through the state's Eviction Protection Program.

"It's based on your ZIP Code," she said. "They match you with organizations that aid your particular area, and you apply from there."

McGaw was approved Dec. 10 but is still waiting 11 days later for the funds to hit her account.

"I’m hoping to see a zero balance at some point," she said. "It’s kind of bittersweet because I know there are so many other people waiting, that haven’t been approved yet."

"The demand is extremely high, and the money will go very quick," said Jacki Taylor, CEO of Save the Family. The East Valley non-profit helps with "eviction prevention and rapid rehousing to get homeless families off the streets and stably housed."

She hopes her organization can help distribute some of the $40 million in federal aid.

"By next year we will see a 25% increase in homeless families," said Taylor. "Of the families we help, 70% are single moms."

"I think we really need to address the fact that there’s just not enough money, there’s not enough," said Joan Serviss, Executive Director of the Arizona Housing Coalition.

Many experts worry that incremental funding, and slightly eviction delays, are just temporary solutions and do not address the larger issues that will eventually surface and devastate millions.

“In response to the pandemic, [40 million] is actually not a lot of money," said Serviss. "I think what will happen is it will serve as a band-aid for the calendar year of 2021.”

"The danger is you’re kicking the can down the road," said Taylor.

"I was told I would have to submit another application," said McGaw. "It’s a pretty stressful situation to be in."