Georgia House Dems call for 60-day stay on evictions, more Labor staffers

06/26/2020 - Atlanta, Georgia - Gov. Brian Kemp is greeted as he visits the House Chambers on Sine Die, day 40, of the legislative session in Atlanta, Friday, June 26, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Georgia House Democrats urged Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration to impose a new 60-day moratorium on evictions, train more staffers to deal with the crush of unemployment claims and immediately grant jobless benefits that have stalled.

The recommendations sent to the governor Wednesday by the Democratic House Caucus also call for Kemp to dip into state reserve funds to provide emergency housing assistance, encourage charities to help with rental assistance and institute a statewide mask mandate.

The five-page policy paper served as a blueprint for how House Democrats would seek to limit the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic if the party flips the Republican-controlled chamber. Democrats must net 16 legislative seats in November to retake the House.

ExploreRead the letter here

“The sober reality is that there is no market-based or voluntary response that will adequately stem the tide of economic loss, displacement and profound suffering resulting from the pandemic,” read the letter, signed by dozens of House Democrats. “We urge you to leverage every tool at your disposal to protect Georgians who need help.”

One of the top recommendations calls for Kemp to order an immediate, renewable 60-day statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures as both a “moral priority” and a public health imperative.

Though more than 10,000 eviction cases were on hold in metro Atlanta during the health crisis, some county court systems recently resumed landlord-tenant hearings this week. Housing advocates worry it could trigger a wave of evictions that disproportionately affect the Black and Hispanic communities.

“This intervention is less disruptive to housing markets, to public health, and to the economy at large than allowing people out of work and clustered in vulnerable family units to be displaced haphazardly throughout the state,” the caucus wrote in the letter.

The caucus says Kemp should draw at least $46 million from Georgia’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families reserve fund for emergency housing assistance, and devote another $60 million in federal CARES Act funds to help renters stay in their homes.

To handle the surge in unemployment claims, Democrats demanded that Kemp “aggressively” hire additional Department of Labor staffers and a “one-time preliminary grant” of all jobless claims that have been pending for at least 30 days subject to a back-end review.

“We understand the severity of the crisis has brought with it an increase in the rancor of our state politics,” the caucus wrote. “But we write this memorandum because we each owe our constituents the duty of persistent, good-faith advocacy for the best public policy.”

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