COLUMBIA, S.C. — With the federal eviction moratorium ending in August, at-risk tenants were no longer given protection from being evicted. Now evictions are on the rise across South Carolina, but there are still resources available.
“It was very scary because I just didn’t know if assistance would come in time for me but thank God it did...yeah," said Columbia resident Akira Johnson.
Johnson said she was evicted from her apartment shortly after the federal eviction moratorium ended in August.
“When the eviction moratorium expired, I mean, unfortunately, I was dealing with a more sadistic rental company where they weren’t really to accept rental assistance in the beginning," said Johnson.
That's when she got in touch with SC Housing, but she said the help didn't come overnight.
“It was a tough process, it was very long. My journey started in February and ended about September just to get assistance," said Johnson.
SC Housing says it's seeing double the amount of applications as eviction cases are rapidly increasing.
“The number of calls coming in, the number of applications. Between May when our SC Stay Plus program opened, and the end of August, we saw about 20,000 applications for assistance in the 39 counties that we were serving, and we've seen more than 20,000 just in the 10 weeks since the moratorium ended," said SC Housing Chief Communications Officer Chris Winston.
He said despite the influx in demand, there are still enough funds to go around.
“The SC Stay Plus program which is working in 39 counties in South Carolina...we still have millions of dollars available for assistance, " said Winston.
He said even before the pandemic, South Carolina had one of the highest eviction rates in the country. Although the hardest hit were low-income workers in the hospitality and food industries, others like Johnson were seeking help from a state agency for the first time.
“I just say look at all your resources, and don’t stop fighting. I didn’t stop fighting because I have three beautiful kids and providing for them...I have to do it," said Johnson.
Over the last month, SC Legal services says there's also been a spike in demand for free legal counsel.
“If there is a legal defense there, or there is a way for a lawyer to affect some kind of change, we’ll assign those cases to an attorney to handle whether that means going to court or whether that means negotiating with the landlord, helping somebody put together a rental assistance application," said SC Legal Services attorney Mark Fessler. If you or someone you know is currently experiencing or at-risk of eviction, connect with SC Housing and SC Legal Services.