By Catherine Reagor and Jessica Boehm| June 24th, 2021
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Thousands of Arizona renters who were facing eviction at the end of June because they couldn't afford rent due to the pandemic are getting a monthlong reprieve.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday the eviction moratorium would be extended until July 31. It was set to expire June 30.

The announcement also said the extension is intended to be the final one.

The additional month on the ban comes as Arizona groups struggle to distribute $492 million in renter aid from the December stimulus to struggling tenants and landlords.

Housing advocates said it's a relief.

EVICTIONS IN ARIZONA: State has given out just 10% of rental aid

"Another month on the moratorium will help many. Arizona agencies are getting into the rhythm of the new program requirements," said Cynthia Zwick, executive director of the nonprofit Wildfire, which is administering part of Phoenix's renter relief funds.

"Not all the funds can be spent in a month, but the extra time will help keep many renters in their homes," she said.

Phoenix man homeless after losing job

Chris Frisby lost his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the economy. Soon after, he was evicted from his home and was sleeping on the street.

Part of the problem in getting the current renter aid out is there are more restrictions on how it can be spent than were put on CARES Act relief funds from 2020.

The Treasury Department was expected to issue new rules on distributing more than $47 billion in U.S. rental assistance to get the money out faster to help both renters and landlords.

Many Arizona landlords are struggling, too, as a record number of tenants can’t make rent payments. For more information on Arizona's rental aid programs, visit azevictionhelp.org.

Most landlord advocates didn't want the moratorium extended. 

"Originally meant to protect public health, the CDC is now clearly creating housing policy," said Arizona Multifamily Association CEO Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus.

"The federal government has forced private rental housing owners to shoulder the burden of this pandemic, essentially turning private property into public housing overnight -- without compensating property owners, many of whom have not been paid rent for nearly a year and a half," she said 

This will be the fourth extension of the CDC eviction ban. It went into effect in early September and was supposed to expire at the end of 2020. It was extended until March 31 and then until the end of this month.

'It costs a lot of money to be poor': How 1 renter faced 11 evictions in 1 year

"When the CDC issued its initial order on evictions last September, thousands of renters in Maricopa County were able to claim protection and remain in their home," said Maricopa County Justice Courts spokesperson Scott Davis. "Since last year, judges have been educating tenants and landlords in court and online about the protection that is available and how to claim it.

"Tenants who successfully do so will be able to stay in their homes at least another 30 days," he said.

About $25 billion in rent aid was allocated nationally through the December stimulus, and another $22 billion was included in March’s American Rescue plan stimulus.

Arizona's share from both is about $866 million.

Chris Groninger, a consumer advocate with the nonprofit Arizona Bar Foundation, said the extra time on the eviction ban will help Arizona groups "get the taxpayer-funded rental aid out" appropriately to the many people who need it to keep their home.

Many states are struggling to get the federal aid out quickly.

Data shared with USA TODAY from the National Low Income Housing Coalition in Washington, D.C., shows Texas at 35% is doing the best at spending down its ERA resources, versus Wyoming at 0.2%.

"Allowing evictions to proceed when there are tens of billions in resources to prevent them would be wasteful and cruel," said Diane Yentel, CEO of National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8040. Follow her on Twitter @Catherinereagor.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 480-694-1823. Follow her on Twitter @jboehm_NEWS.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral today.

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