This is a guest post by Anna Levy and Jeff Rubin, JUFJ leaders.
On July 25, Maryland courts will reopen for eviction proceedings. As that day rapidly approaches, the number of Maryland renters unable to make their rent payments increases — about 20,000 Montgomery County renters are getting closer to losing their homes.
JUFJ and our coalition partners are working to highlight the urgency of this situation, and demand that Governor Hogan take action for renter relief:
On Monday, June 29, JUFJers held a 5-hour digital watch party for the MD House Environment and Transportation Committee virtual briefing on the effects of COVID-19 on housing in Maryland. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Aseem Nigam, Director of Housing and Community Affairs for Montgomery County, testified, as well as representatives of our Renters United Maryland coalition partners Public Justice Center, ACLU, and others. Representatives of landlord and banking associations also testified. All emphasized that the $30 million of rent relief which Governor Hogan announced at the end of the previous week is insufficient to address the looming eviction crisis.
On July 1, our coalition partner CASA hosted a #CancelTheRent press conference from the courthouse in Baltimore, covered by the Baltimore Sun, Maryland Matters, Univision, Telemundo, and other outlets. JUFJ leader Joe Magar spoke, along with people in danger of eviction and other safe housing advocates. The #CancelTheRent campaign is requesting $175 million in rent relief and an extension of the eviction moratorium through January 1, 2021 or until the end of the COVID-19 emergency if it continues beyond January 1, 2021.
Additional actions are planned soon.
Read on for Joe’s powerful words about why protections against eviction are essential right now:
Good afternoon, my name is Joe Magar and I’m here as part of Jews United for Justice. You may have heard the Jewish people referred to as “a people of laws.” For the last two millennia Rabbis have curated a cross generational dialogue on sacred texts consisting of commentary upon commentary, with the singular goal of preserving our values throughout ever-changing times. Sitting at the apex of these values, taking precedence over nearly everything else is the preservation of life and by extension conditions in which to live.
When facing challenging times, we turn to this conversation with our ancestors and the precedent they set. Rarely are they so on the nose. Nearly 2000 years ago it was argued that one couldn’t be evicted during the rainy season. Now you don’t need to engage in any theological gymnastics to apply this example to 2020 and the covid pandemic.
This year the citizens of Maryland have made great sacrifices in the pursuit of preserving life. A pursuit that my traditions would argue is sacred and of the utmost importance. But the weight of these sacrifices have not been distributed equally. Communities of color, already disproportionately impacted by the eviction crisis and the virus can’t be left holding this burden.
The deal was, we all stay home, lose work, opportunity, income, education etc and we’ll all be safer. We still have a way to go before we can safely return to business as usual and the people of Maryland will continue to sacrifice. Gov Hogan, it’s time live up to your end of that bargain. Expanding the eviction moratorium. 30M is not enough. Allocate the necessary funds to rental assistance. If those rabbis writing about eviction all those years ago were facing a pandemic I believe they would agree. When future generations look back on our time for wisdom let them see that we did the right thing and kept the people who’ve helped keep us all safe in their homes.
Since we know that much of the decision making power around eviction protection and expanding rental assistance lies with Governor Hogan, JUFJ leaders participated in a texting session to reach JUFJ members in districts with strong support for Governor Hogan. We asked recipients to fill out the latest housing action alert, if you haven’t yet sent this message, now is the perfect time!
Jeff Rubin and Anna Levy are members of JUFJ’s Montgomery County Leadership Council, as well as our Maryland statewide leadership team.