April 30, 2020

St. Louis  — The ACLU of Missouri and American Civil Liberties Union affiliates around the country sent letters to local elected officials urging them to issue moratoria against evictions and utility shut-offs and commit to preventing mass evictions after these moratoria end.

Across the nation, the COVID-19 pandemic has already resulted in widespread and devastating economic consequences, as unemployment claims continue to climb. In the face of staggering unemployment numbers, millions of tenants face the imminent threat of losing their homes or access to utility services due to the inability to pay. The ACLU is calling for the prevention of mass evictions in the midst of this global COVID-19 public health crisis.

Alicia Hernández, ACLU MO Organizer: “As COVID-19 continues to spread within Missouri, housing is also a major issue – particularly for those whose income is impacted by involuntary unemployment, extended sickness, or required quarantine.

Evictions will also disproportionately harm communities of color— and particularly Black women. From 2012 until 2016, Black women renters in Missouri, on average, had evictions filed against them at over double the rate of white renters. 

Providing a temporary moratorium on eviction actions would allow people to remain stably housed as they safeguard their health and the health of their families and other Missourians. This is the right thing for officials  to do and would be a vital tool to keep Missouri renters in their homes and to mitigate the community spread of COVID-19 in our state.”

In the ACLU of Missouri’s letter, the ACLU calls on Governor Parson to issue a comprehensive moratorium that will:

  • Halt every stage of the eviction process;
  • Continue to prevent mass evictions during and after the pandemic;
  • Apply to all types of tenants and lease violations;
  • Prohibit the collection of late fees and retaliation against tenants who assert their rights under the moratorium;
  • Prohibit utility shut-offs and require restoration of previously disconnected services.

“As millions of people lose their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, renters are faced with the added threat of being put out of their homes or cut off from access to utilities during a global crisis,” said Sandra Park, senior attorney at the ACLU. “Evictions and utility shut-offs will disproportionately harm communities of color, and particularly, women of color. All residents — regardless of their circumstances or background — should have access to safe and stable housing throughout the course of this ongoing public health crisis.”

The ACLU has worked over the years to address unfair eviction screening policies, which disproportionately undermine housing opportunities for women of color and will present a barrier to safe housing opportunities if mass evictions take place.

The ACLU of Missouri also urges supporters of tenant rights to sign on to a petition from KC Tenants which can be found here