CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Disability Rights Texas has two online tools available to people in the state who are at the risk of eviction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first one, available in both English and Spanish, is the Unpaid Rent Accommodation Request Generator. This tool is for people facing eviction for unpaid, past-due, or late rent who are unable to work due to the pandemic. If you, or someone in your household, has a compromised immune system and cannot work, this tool is useful. The other tool, the CDC Declaration Letter Form, is also available in English and Spanish, and was created after the CDC-issued moratorium on evictions, which was recently extended until March 31.
The tools prompt users to fill in the blanks with their information and the information of their landlord. It then generates a letter with all the important information regarding their housing situation, that can then be delivered to a landlord to start a dialogue for both sides to make a compromise.
“The generator tool came about because we were working on a lot of things that were pandemic related, and there was so much work, and so many people that were asking for help, we couldn’t help everybody. That’s frustrating for us, because we do want to be able to help as many people as possible, and what we realized we can do is try to automate the process,” said Rachel Cohen-Miller, the supervising attorney for the Housing Transportation Disaster Team with Disability Rights Texas.
The letter is not a cure-all situation, and a conversation still needs to take place between tenet and landlord, but it helps facilitate that conversation, Cohen-Miller said.
“We have to help as many people as we can, and use our resources in the best way possible. What that really means is giving people the tools to use so that you can start this conversation yourself. We know there are millions of people across the country who are looking at being evicted because they can’t pay rent. This may be a way to start the conversation with a landlord so that you don’t get evicted,” she said. “A lot of times, they dealt with it; they engaged in the dialogue with their landlord, and they worked something out. Sometimes they’ll say, ‘no it didn’t work, can you help me more?’ So, we’ll look at it and see if we can get involved at that point.”
Additionally, not everyone is covered under either of the letters provided by the tool. The generator links walk users through questions to make sure they know they are covered, and suggests seeking legal counsel if they are uncertain about their situation.
Cohen-Miller said a lot of times, people do not know they are covered in their situation, and suggests people to check out the generator to see if they do qualify.
“The more people hear about this, the more people say, ‘oh my gosh, I had no idea I had rights in this situation.’ We get calls daily, emails daily, about situations people are having, and asking for help,” she said.
Cohen-Miller said across the state, many people have reached out asking for help, and that’s why the generators were created. She also said being able to help people in need is fulfilling for her and her team.
“We’ve gotten a lot of thank yous, a lot of, ‘I don’t know what I would’ve done without this.’ That’s rewarding, because we’re able to help people, and that’s why we’re here, to be able to help as many people as we can. The tools, the generators that we have, were brought online because there was just an overwhelming demand, and the Housing Transportation Disaster Team is real small,” she said.