Read this letter from the Central Arizona National Lawyers Guild requesting that Governor Doug Ducey extend and strengthen the Postponement of Eviction Actions Executive Order 2020-14 issued on March 24 for 120 days:
July 13, 2020
Dear Governor Ducey,
The National Lawyers Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest progressive bar association and was the first one in the U.S. to be racially integrated. Our mission is to use law for the people, uniting lawyers, law students, legal workers, and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective force in the service of the people by valuing human rights and the rights of ecosystems over property interests. The Central Arizona National Lawyers Guild chapter in Phoenix through which the work of the NLG is accomplished was established in the 1970s and has been active ever since.
Today we write to urgently request that you extend and strengthen the Postponement of Eviction Actions Executive Order 2020-14 issued on March 24 for 120 days. Similar to your recent executive order on July 1, 2020-46, Ending termination date of programs, you can simply extend the termination date of the program.
Other organizations joining us in this call for compassionate action are the Humanist Society for Greater Phoenix; Secular Coalition for Arizona; Freedom from Religion Foundation – Valley of the Sun Chapter; Americans United for Separation of Church and State – Greater Phoenix Chapter; Arizona NOW, Arizona Chapter of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, Flagstaff Chapter NAACP, State Conference NAACP, and Senator Steele along with House Representative Dr. Gerae Peten,
Executive Order 2020-14 should be extended for all the same reasons that required that order to be issued in the first place. Many people must remain isolated for medically necessary reasons, many people have lost jobs and income that has not and is not being replaced, and to protect public health. Because of the late and confused roll out of the tenant assistance program, only 5% of the people who applied were able to get help.
Since the issuance of that order 2020-14 on March 24, you have issued the June 17, 2020-40 executive order Containing the Spread of COVID 19- Continuing Arizona Mitigation Efforts because of the upsurge after opening. That increase became even more dramatic resulting in the executive order 2020-43 on June 29, Pausing the Re-opening – Slowing the Spread of the Virus. That still wasn’t enough.
We have over 4,000 new infections daily, an extraordinarily high rate of 25% for positive results due to lack of testing and contact tracing, and daily death totals as high as 75 with AZ now mourning the deaths of over 2,000 people. Failing to learn from New York, we have had to order refrigerated trucks to hold our dead. AZ has more infections and deaths than the entire European Union that has 450 million people. In response to this escalating crisis, you issued executive order 2020-47 Reducing the Risk, Slowing the Spread on July 9. This pandemic is out of control in Arizona and you need to take drastic measures now.
Since the pandemic started, the state has lost 14,900 public sector jobs. The economic gravity of the shortfall cannot be stressed enough. Without further federal aid to state and local governments, Arizona is projected to lose 95,200 private and public jobs by the end of 2021. The recent resurgence of the virus only compounds the urgency and should dispel all complacency.
In May, Arizona had an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, one of the highest rates ever recorded, with roughly 160,000 more state residents out of work than in February. As of early July, approximately 740,000 Arizonans, representing 20.4 percent of the state’s February labor force, have led unemployment insurance claims since the beginning of March. Some estimates are projecting a double-digit unemployment rate well into 2021. Without jobs, people cannot pay their rent. The state must step in.
The Arizona unemployment offices were so ill prepared for the applications that the system broke down and a private contractor had to be called in. Still today all of the applications are not caught up and people have not even received all of their unemployment benefits so they could pay their rent. Problem piles on top of problem to create a tsunami that will swamp us all.
Data suggests tens of thousands of Arizonans will become homeless on July 23 if you do not extend your current eviction delay order. On this date, months of back rent will become due but tenants will not be able to pay. Most tenants will not even have the benefit of a 5-day waiting period because a majority of county justices of the peace have already approved eviction orders. On July 10, we spoke to a constable who verified that there are piles of eviction orders on the desk awaiting service. On July 13, I spoke to another constable who verified that they are planning on going to serve the documents immediately but in teams anticipating problems.
In Maricopa County, approximately 1,700 eviction orders have been issued since mid-March. We can expect well over 2,000 evictions to be ripe for enforcement upon the expiration of your Order July 23rd. But the number could well be much higher as we know landlords have held off filing eviction actions this spring due to your Eviction Order. Once your Order expires, there will be no reason to hold off, and we are likely to see a flood of eviction actions.
Already overstretched relief agencies will not be able to handle the sheer number of persons who will need housing assistance and many will end up homeless. They will have no place to wash their hands or isolate. Because many of those evicted will themselves be sick with COVID-19 or be caring for a family member sick with the virus, to evict them from their homes and put them on the street or in congregate facilities will endanger the lives of many others.
These evictions will kick off a period of the largest number of homeless people in the U.S. since the Great Depression. Arizona already had a housing crisis with insufficient numbers of low- and moderate-income housing available. Nationally 26% of households could not pay last month’s rent. Even if landlords do evict, there will be one to replace the evicted tenants who can pay the rent so it will not help landlords pay their mortgage either.
There will be no cost savings by doing this. Public costs will go up for the police, jails, child welfare organizations, emergency rooms, shelters, and juvenile justice systems. You will be doing the private sector no good either as the landlords will not find renters who can in fact pay the mortgage. We need the banks that we bailed out to now bail us out by stopping mortgage collections.
One step is to simplify, speed up, and extend the Rental Assistance program administered by ADOH so that these landlords receive the rent owed them. Landlords can revise leases to put the payments at the end of the lease. The banks that the people bailed out with tax money just a few short years ago can wait for payments on the mortgages owed on the property.
Failure to take action now will result in both a short-term and long-term disaster. The short-term disaster is that many tenants will resist. It is the middle of a very hot summer and to be evicted means no shade, no water, no air conditioning, no refrigeration for food or medicine. The libraries are closed so the homeless cannot go there to be cool as they have in the past. The watering stations are closed due to the pandemic. The schools are closed so children can’t get respite or lunch. Violence is bound to ensue to the harm of families and law enforcement.
Second, the evicted families and children will face extreme hardship from the heat, the lack of services, the spread of the pandemic, and the inability to protect themselves by isolation or handwashing. Many of them will be infected who should not have been and especially because they are vulnerable in so many ways, many will die.
Third, the evicted persons must by necessity spread the pandemic throughout the community causing yet another spike. All of this can be avoided by taking compassionate action immediately. We ask that you extend your Executive Order 2020-14 indefinitely until such time as the pandemic in Arizona is brought under control.
Pima county is working with their constables to alleviate this foreseeable disaster. No such work is happening in Maricopa county. We need you to act on a statewide level. Thank you.
Central Arizona National Lawyers Guild