‘It’s Going to Be a Crisis’: County and Non-Profits Rally Around Henrico Renters Facing Eviction

July 23, 2020

Since COVID 19 made its presence in central Virginia in March, nearly 35,000 Henrico residents have filed initial unemployment claims, according to data from the Virginia Employment Commission. More than 15,200 residents were still filing continuing unemployment claims during the week ending July 11, according to the VEC. 

That lost income is creating what Equal Justice Works Fellow and Central Virginia Legal Aid Society attorney Palmer Heenan calls a pending eviction crisis. 

In just the second day of the Henrico COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance program, all the 500 printed applications for the help were gobbled up by county residents facing dire financial challenges resulting in an inability to afford rent money.

Heenan fights evictions for low-income area residents hit by job loss, furloughs, and health issues in court. The number of cases has boomed since COVID-19 bashed the economy, he said. 

“The people I represent are police officers, teachers, nurses, they have been furloughed from work or their hours have been cut back,” said Heenan. “Many are not eligible for unemployment. They’re struggling to make ends meet. They’ve never struggled before. Now It’s magnified, and it’s going to be a crisis. These are middle-class Americans who always had a stable job and can no longer afford to pay rent.”

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