The COVID relief bill passed earlier this week and under threat of a veto by President Donald Trump includes the extension of a federal eviction moratorium instituted in September and enhanced by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in October.
Polis' supplemental order expires on Dec. 31, while the extension by the federal government runs through the end of January. The federal order, originally instituted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blocks landlords from evicting tenants who say they've been financially impacted by the virus. But it doesn't protect those whose lease has expired during the pandemic, and it also allows courts to proceed through eviction filings, right up until the point that tenants are actually removed from their homes.
Before Polis' order, there was varied application of the CDC's order across the state. Denver and Colorado Springs courts interpreted it differently and gave different outcomes to the tenants and landlords.
Polis' order smoothed over those inconsistencies, stopping eviction filings before they got going while broadening who could qualify for the protections. But that order, which Polis briefly extended last week, expires in a week, potentially shifting the state back into the more varied CDC approach.
Polis spokesman Conor Cahill said the governor's office was reviewing the federal relief bill and "will be monitoring and harmonizing state policy with federal law."
Peter LiFari, the executive director of Maiker Housing Partners, said the moratorium should be extended at least through the end of February.
"It would be optimal to see (Polis) extend his order alongside the CDC order as long as the CDC order is in effect," LiFari said. "They need to be harmonized, and the elements that Polis' order hits upon kind of backstops the openings in the CDC order."
LiFari said the CDC order "gives a significant level of protection, but it's not all encompassing."
Last week, members of Polis' eviction task force wrote him a letter urging him to extend his order through at least January, if not the end of the pandemic. Research indicates that hundreds of thousands of Coloradans are behind on their rent and stand to be evicted if no protections are in place.
On top of the moratorium, the stimulus bill includes $25 billion for rental assistance, and it extends the deadline for when money from the initial stimulus bill must be spent. LiFari, whose group provides rental assistance, said there are as many as 1,800 people trying to get help and that his organization only has the money to help 300 or 400 at the time that they closed applications in October.
More money has flowed since, and Maiker has distributed about $3.7 million.
"I think the key takeaway here is we have a tremendous, mind-boggling need," he said. "We probably still have 1,000 to 900 folks in our queue that are going to need rental assistance."
The new pot of money should begin being doled out early next month, he said, and the bill allows the money to spent not only on past-due rent but on future months. That's a proactive measure, LiFari said, that will significantly help a problem that's often reactively addressed.