LSC President Ronald Flagg Calls for Expanded Eviction Diversion and Right-to-Counsel Programs in Response to CDC Moratorium’s Expiration

In remarks delivered at the Southeast Project Directors Association’s annual meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida, LSC President Ronald S. Flagg called on state and local governments on August 2 to expand the use of eviction diversion and housing right-to-counsel programs to more quickly and fairly distribute already appropriated emergency rental assistance funds. His remarks follow the expiration of the CDC eviction moratorium.

Read the introduction to his statement: 

"Thanks for inviting me to join you today. I am tremendously excited to be with you. I have been President of LSC now for almost a year and a half, and today marks the first time that I have appeared live before any group. And this gives me the opportunity to thank each and every one of you for all you have done and are doing every day to provide legal aid to our neighbors living in poverty. For the courageous, creative, and innovative work you have been doing as first responders amidst the pandemic and economic crisis through which we are living.

With the expiration of the CDC eviction moratorium, today is a particularly ominous moment for the low-income communities which America’s legal aid programs serve. Millions of Americans face the dire risk of losing their homes in the coming weeks. And with the loss of their homes, the health, the safety, the security and education of our neighbors are also at grave risk. And these risks fall disproportionately on communities of color.

There is a path forward to prevent this catastrophe. Congress has already appropriated about $45 billion dollars of emergency rental assistance to enable tenants to pay their rent and landlords to pay their mortgages. Yet, to date, only about 10% of those funds had reached tenants or landlords. Every state and local government in America should be distributing those funds promptly.

Dozens of court systems around the country, including those in Durham, NC, St. Paul, MN, Lansing, MI, Boston, and Philadelphia, have created eviction diversion programs that provide time for tenants and landlords to access emergency rental assistance and reduce the risk of rendering thousands of families homeless in the midst of an ongoing health crisis. Those programs serve as models for metro areas around the country to adopt.

And in the last few years, we have seen right to counsel programs for housing cases in places like Cleveland, Minneapolis, New York, and San Francisco that have – in every location – substantially reduced the number of families losing their homes. Again, these programs serve as models that other jurisdictions can adopt to make sure people facing the risk of eviction have a fair shot in eviction cases.

America’s legal aid providers are on the front lines in ensuring the success of these solutions – helping to ensure that emergency rental assistance reaches the tenants and landlords who so desperately need that support; and helping to ensure that eviction diversion programs and right to counsel programs work the way they are designed to work.

So, there is a path forward that can prevent the impending catastrophe. We must have political will to take that path.

We at LSC view our mission these days as consisting of three components – one, supporting you with funding and technical assistance; two, educating Congress and the public about the justice gap and challenges you and your clients are facing; and three doing our oversight flexibly -- carrying out our obligations while being mindful of the extraordinary challenges you currently face.

My presentation today will highlight how LSC has been carrying out these obligations. But my primary goal today is to answer your questions, and I welcome questions during my presentation or after I’ve completed it."

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