SACRAMENTO, April 17, 2020 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson urging the Trump Administration to suspend rulemaking on a proposal on housing assistance eligibility that threatens to result in eviction for tens of thousands of Californians. Last year, the Attorney General called on HUD to withdraw the proposal, which would eliminate families’ housing assistance funds simply because they live with people who are ineligible for assistance based on their immigration status, such as those with Temporary Protected Status, work visas, student visas, nonimmigrant visas for victims of crimes, and those who are undocumented. Attorney General Becerra is calling on the Trump Administration to take action consistent with its own mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19 and not leave people without the ability to shelter at home.
“The Trump Administration has a responsibility to protect vulnerable communities across the country,” said Attorney General Becerra. “It’s not enough to say you want to slow the spread of COVID-19, the federal government has to continue to act to make it happen — and that includes putting a stop to this foolhardy proposal. Nobody should have to face the prospect of evicting a loved one to keep a roof over the rest of their family’s heads. It wasn’t acceptable before and it’s certainly not okay during a public health crisis that requires people to stay at home.”
Minimizing displacement from housing is critical to the stay-at-home efforts necessary for reducing the spread of COVID-19. In recognition of the critical need for stable housing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act provides protection against evictions from certain federally assisted housing for non-payment of rent or mortgages. However, pushing forward with finalization of the proposed rule — which HUD itself has acknowledged will cause homelessness and other housing disruptions for affected families — during the COVID-19 outbreak would undermine federal and state efforts to slow the spread of the virus. If the proposal is implemented, it will force immigrant families to choose between losing their subsidized housing and evicting their ineligible family members, thereby forcing many displaced residents into overcrowded living conditions or homelessness, where they will be less able to protect themselves from COVID-19. Moreover, the proposed rule would also harm immigrant farmworkers, whom the federal government has deemed essential workers in regards to the food supply chain. Farmworkers are continuing to work during the COVID-19 outbreak and are often in close proximity to others in the fields, packing facilities, and on their way to work. Implementing the proposed rule would also deprive many farmworkers of the shelter they need to protect themselves and their families at home.
In addition, the proposal, if implemented, will require many HUD residents to obtain paper identification documents from government offices in order to verify their citizenship or eligible immigration status. Requiring the public to visit government offices at this time is inconsistent with the federal government’s own instructions to minimize face-to-face interactions, especially at those offices or sites where people may be gathering in close proximity or where highly vulnerable populations obtain services. It would be unconscionable for HUD to require its residents to expose themselves to possible infection to comply with its arbitrary proposal. Moreover, many HUD residents would be unable to obtain the required identification documents at all, because most government offices are closed to the public and experiencing significant delays in providing documents by mail. HUD residents who cannot obtain the required identification documents will lose their subsidized housing, even if they are citizens or eligible non-citizens.
During COVID-19, Attorney General Becerra remains committed to protecting the people of California. Earlier this month, the Attorney General issued a consumer alert on evictions to provide tenants with critical information to preserve their rights. He also called on the federal government to instate a special enrollment period on HealthCare.Gov to help people access healthcare coverage. Last month, he called on Amazon and Whole Foods to step up worker protections by providing paid sick leave that is consistent with guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He also urged the Trump Administration to halt implementation of the “Public Charge” rule, which could undermine public health efforts to combat COVID-19. For the latest on COVID-19 preparedness, please visit https://covid19.ca.gov/.
A copy of the letter is available here.