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'We're really concerned.' Tenants worry about eviction as CARES Act benefits expire

When the CARES Act was signed into law back in March, it provided 120 days of eviction relief for tenants in federally-backed housing.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — This month, the extra $600 a week for those filing for unemployment ended. This week, eviction relief under the CARES Act expired.

RELATED: Extra $600 for unemployment benefits ends Saturday

RELATED: The federal eviction moratorium is expiring, putting millions at risk of losing housing

"There is really nothing else holding up evictions right now," Attorney Adam Protheroe said. "I think it's going to be a real struggle for a lot of folks." 

When the CARES Act was signed into law back in March, it provided 120 days of eviction relief for tenants in federally-backed housing. Meaning, landlords could not serve tenants with an eviction notice until July 25 and must be given with a 30 day notice.

RELATED: Evictions postponed until May 15 in South Carolina

Protheroe, an attorney with Appleseed Legal Justice Center said this could impact a lot of people.

"We're really concerned we're going to see a big spike in evictions, not just because the federal eviction moratorium that covers some properties is going to be lifted, but also because of the expiring unemployment benefits," Protheroe said.

Protheroe said this will be an issue for more than just struggling tenants.

"It's going to be a problem for everybody really, for tenants who are unable to pay rent, if they are facing eviction in normal times eviction is a traumatic event," Protheroe said.

Protheroe said, "Imagine facing an eviction right now. It's even harder during a pandemic."

"Often times, the options folks have include homeless shelters or moving in with relatives. And during a pandemic, as we all know, social distancing is really important, and that really undermines peoples' ability to maintain social distance," Protheroe said.

Protheroe said it will also affect landlords.

"Turnover is costly and the money that was going, if someone was paying rent using unemployment benefits, and that money all of a sudden stops that's money the landlords aren't receiving as well," Protheroe said.

Meanwhile Liz Walsh with SC Thrive, an organization that recently launched a COVID-19 rental assistance program, said there is help available. 

Rental Assistance Program Eligibility Requirements

Wondering if you're eligible for up to $1,500 in rent assistance? Check out the requirements to see if you might qualify. For more information and to apply, visit rent.scthrive.org.

Posted by SC Thrive on Monday, July 27, 2020

"Reach out to your landlord and let them know that you are doing what you can to be able to pay," Walsh said. "Through the CARES Act there has been an increase flood of funding available to help people who are in your situation." 

RELATED: Rental assistance programs still available in South Carolina

Protheroe also suggests tenants who get served with eviction papers should contact an attorney as soon as possible. He said there are organizations who provide free legal services throughout the state.

The SC Bar has partnered with Spartanburg County Public Libraries to... host virtual legal clinics in the coming months that will allow volunteer attorneys to assist members of the public with legal questions without sacrificing safety. Legal needs don't stop in the face of a pandemic, and this innovative solution during the public health crisis will allow volunteers to meet people where they are.