A bill for final approval by the Washington State Senate aims to provide lawyers for some low-income residents facing eviction, which would make it the first state to enact such a measure.
The bill, whose draft was initially approved in the state Senate and approved with amendments by the Chamber on Thursday, would provide lawyers for tenants who met certain qualifying conditions.
Those eligible to receive legal representation from the state include residents who receive certain public assistance, individuals who have been admitted to a mental health facility, those who cannot afford a lawyer or those who have an income of 125 percent or below the federal poverty level, according to The Seattle Times.
Jim Bamberger, director of the state’s Office of Civil Legal Assistance, praised the legislation, telling the Times that “it is a powerful statement by the legislature in terms of the balance of power in the justice system between tenants and landlords.”
“And I think it will work, honestly, in favor of both,” he added.
However, an amendment added to the bill on Thursday night generated concern on the part of housing advocates, as it would end Washington’s eviction moratorium on June 30, the same day as the federal order that suspends practice in the midst of the pandemic is about to expire.
Bamberger told the Times that, if approved, the bill would require his office to hire 58 additional state attorneys, which he said may not be logistically possible in less than three months.
However, some state lawmakers have pointed out that the amendment would temporarily require the state to provide rental assistance directly to a person’s landlord if a qualified tenant in the program does not have access to a lawyer as of July 1.
“The argument that the day the moratorium ends, people will be on the streets is simply false,” state deputy Andrew Barkis (R) told the Times. “It takes months to go through the eviction process.”
“We believe that there will be a long time for these things to be set up,” he added.
Bamberger noted that the legal representation program is likely to cost his office about $ 11.4 million in the first year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced at the end of last month, three days before the existing federal eviction moratorium expires, which would extend the temporary ban on coronavirus evictions until the end of June.
CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyHealth at night: White House rejects request to send more doses of vaccines to certain states | White House warns states to expect low weekly shipments of J&J vaccines Watch Live: White House COVID-19 Response Team Briefing CDC data show increase in Brazil variant detected in the USA MORE said in a statement at the time, “The COVID-19 pandemic represented a historic threat to the country’s public health. Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or crowded environments – such as homeless shelters – avoiding evictions is a key step in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. ”
However, concerns have emerged in recent days after a new guidance issued by a Texas judicial advisory panel gave the green light for state courts to openly challenge the CDC moratorium, putting hundreds of thousands of Texans at risk of being removed from their homes.