Evictions are set to begin again in St. Louis County.
For the past year, the St. Louis Circuit Court has put them off, citing guidance from federal agencies. But St. Louis County Sheriff's deputies in April are expected to start working through a portion of the 500 backlogged eviction orders, the court announced today.
"In meeting regularly with attorneys for tenants as well as landlords for the past several months, it is clear that everyone has been facing serious financial challenges throughout the pandemic,” St. Louis County Presiding Judge Michael D. Burton said in a news release. “Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel."
Burton referenced $30 million in federal funding expected to open up in April to help tenants get caught up on back rent and unpaid utility bills while offering limited assistance for future rent. The combination of federal rent aid and the ongoing rollout of vaccines were factors in the decision to evictions, according to today's announcement.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services issued a moratorium on evictions last year, finding that forcing people out of their homes during a pandemic was a public health hazard. Today's announcement notes that the federal moratorium is set to end on March 31.
There is speculation that the White House will extend the evictions moratorium
. However, the county is apparently pushing forward. The announcement from the circuit court says it will focus for the first several days on problematic cases in which the properties are tied to drug activity or in which neighbors and landlords face physical danger or major property damage. Evictions on commercial properties will also be fair game.
All eviction cases are set to begin April 5.
Concern for the sheriff's deputies tasked with carrying out the orders, which often involves entering residences, was one of the factors in the county's moratorium. Two sheriff's employees have died as a result COVID-19, but the court announcement says that vaccinations were completed Friday of all deputies and staff who wanted the shot.
The federal assistance for rent is through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program
and the State Assistance for Housing Relief Program
. Tenants can apply for help, and the programs make payments directly to landlords or utility companies. If landlords get the money from E.R.A.P or S.A.H.R. for current and future, they can't evict tenants at the same time.
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