Polis extends eviction protections for some renters after moratorium expired

Thousands of Coloradans are still waiting for promised rent assistance

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A day before the national eviction moratorium ended, Gov. Jared Polis gave struggling Colorado renters more time.

On July 30, Polis extended a prior order to give renters more time if they’ve applied for help and are still waiting for the state’s emergency rent assistance program to make payments.

The national moratorium, set by the enters for Disease Control and Prevention, ended July 31.

“The demand for this state and federal aid has been immense, and these programs need time to provide aid to tenants. This directive provides assistance to Colorado residential tenants at risk for eviction while state and federal funds are distributed,” reads Polis’ order.

The state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program offers struggling renters up to 15 months in past-due and future rent payments. But the program experienced delays since it launched in February.

Part of the reason was the January influx of applicants after the state’s own moratorium ended, a rush that overwhelmed the housing division. But new rules to implement the federal funds also meant the state had to update its rent aid program, causing additional delays.

But tenants who applied later in the spring and learned they were approved for funding found themselves waiting for weeks and months, with limited communication from the state Department of Local Affairs' division of housing.

Jana Happel, a staff attorney at the nonprofit Colorado Legal Services helping tenants stay housed, said that some of her clients had waited more than two months after getting approved.

“The problem is that with all these people who’ve been approved, they can get evicted when the moratorium expires (even though) they’ve been waiting for the check to come,” Happel said in an earlier interview.

Congress allocated $690 million to Colorado just for the rent assistance program through two relief acts passed in December and March. To date, less than 5% of those federal dollars have been paid to renters, according to DOLA data.

This week, officials with DOLA blamed the delays on fraud but declined to elaborate on the extent of the fraud or why those approved have not been paid.

Polis’ July 30 order only helps residents who can demonstrate that they or their landlord have submitted an application for assistance.

The state has so far paid or approved $121.7 million in housing assistance to 36,858 households, though most of the funds came from state coffers or last year’s federal CARES Act.

About 10,000 applicants were denied funds and another 10,000 have been submitted, are under review or are missing information, as of July 28, according to DOLA data.

Also on July 30, Polis announced that his administration would require that unvaccinated state workers be tested twice a week for COVID starting Sept. 20. Unvaccinated workers already must wear face masks indoors in public spaces.

This story is from The Colorado Sun, a journalist-owned news outlet based in Denver and covering the state. For more, and to support The Colorado Sun, visit coloradosun.com. The Colorado Sun is a partner in the Colorado News Conservancy, owner of Colorado Community Media.

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