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Arizona Christians press for more rent and eviction relief

Arizona Christians press for more rent and eviction relief

The Rt Revd Jennifer A. Reddall, Bishop of Arizona, signed a letter on behalf of Christian denominations across Arizona urging that State’s Department of Housing to extend its moratorium on evictions and streamline and further fund its process for rent relief:

When you graciously created this moratorium back in March, none of us knew exactly what track the pandemic would take in Arizona. Now that it is clear the virus is having long-term and substantial effects on our economy, our employment rates, and our health care system, it is time to respond with the same sort of compassion you demonstrated at the beginning of the pandemic.

Leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), The United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, the Grand Canyon and de Cristo Presbyteries, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, the African American Christian Clergy Coalition, and the Episcopal Church joined the letter to Carol Ditmore, Director of the Arizona Department of Housing, saying,

As Christian leaders, we believe all people have a right to the most basic needs of human life: food, water, and shelter. It is in your power to ensure that the most economically vulnerable Arizonans do not end up as secondary victims to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arizona has emerged over the past month as a hotspot for new coronavirus cases. The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona is continuing to suspend in-person, public worship until there is a sustained reduction in new COVID-19 cases locally.

The letter from the Arizona churches, which was copied to the Governor, his Senior Policy Advisor, and Director of the Office of Youth, Faith, and Families, is copied below:


Dear Director Ditmore,

We, the leaders of several church bodies in Arizona, write to ask you, in the name of God’s commandment to love your neighbor as yourself,

  • To extend the moratorium on evictions due to COVID-19 beyond the current July 22 deadline;
  • To streamline and simplify the process for applying for COVID-19 rental relief;
  • To advocate for the increase of funds available for COVID-19 rental relief.

When you graciously created this moratorium back in March, none of us knew exactly what track the pandemic would take in Arizona. Now that it is clear the virus is having long-term and substantial effects on our economy, our employment rates, and our health care system, it is time to respond with the same sort of compassion you demonstrated at the beginning of the pandemic.

Recent reports indicate that out of 16,000 applications, only 962 have been approved and over 6500 have been ruled incomplete. This data indicates the process is not accessible to the significant number of Arizonans who have suffered job losses and economic fallout from the pandemic. Streamlining and simplifying the application process for this rent relief would enable more tenants to pay their rent—making landlords whole, and no longer in the difficult position of choosing between turning people out on the streets and their own livelihoods.  The remaining $4 million of the allocated funds for this program is only useful if it gets into the hands of tenants, and then to their landlords.

Increasing the amount of money available for the COVID-19 rental relief program is urgently needed, given the number of businesses that have relied on PPP funds to keep people employed, or that have closed. Another round of layoffs and furloughs is likely when PPP funds run out, which will push more people to untenable choice between paying their rent and feeding their families.

As Christian leaders, we believe all people have a right to the most basic needs of human life: food, water, and shelter. It is in your power to ensure that the most economically vulnerable Arizonans do not end up as secondary victims to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faithfully,

The Right Rev. Jennifer A. Reddall
Sixth Episcopal Bishop of Arizona

On behalf of:

The Rev. Deborah K. Hutterer
Bishop, Grand Canyon Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Rev. Jay R. Hartley
Regional Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Arizona

The Rev. Dr. Robert T. Hoshibata,
Resident Bishop
The Desert Southwest Conference
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr. William M. Lyons, Conference Minister
Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ

The Rev. Brad Munroe
Pastor to the Presbytery
Grand Canyon and de Cristo Presbyteries

The Most Reverend Eduardo Nevares
Auxiliary Bishop
Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix

Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr., Chairperson
African American Christian Clergy Coalition

cc:  Governor Doug Ducey
Cristina Corieri, Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor
Director Maria Christina Fuentes, Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Families


Photo: Bishop Reddall via Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. Photo credit: Noble Cause, LLC

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