ABCD President/CEO John J. Drew urges vision, collaboration

After 18 months of a global health crisis, our country and the world have been conditioned to respond. We train our focus on the next milestone in the hope that it will lead to a meaningful turnaround.

But it’s time for leaders to transition from a reactive to a proactive mindset in order to make urgent matters manageable and, crucially, to work together to develop long-term solutions to poverty and suffering. 

Case in point: days after the federal eviction moratorium expired on July 31st, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered its extension through October 3rd. On August 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected that order stating that the CDC had exceeded its authority. Consequently, evictions can resume.

Massachusetts has put in place limited protections for tenants whose reason for non-payment is financial hardship caused directly by COVID-19 and who have a pending application for rental assistance. 

The loss of federal protection has the potential to throw millions of pandemic-battered Americans into homelessness through no fault of their own. That is why the federal moratorium must be extended through the winter months to prevent a horrific slide into homelessness in bitter winter weather. Moreover, our leaders must find an enduring bipartisan solution. 

Of vital importance is that tens of billions in federal pandemic housing funds has not gotten to the people who need it. The New York Times reported last month that more than $46.5 billion for rental assistance and eviction prevention has been allocated through pandemic relief packages, but as of July 31st, only $5.1 billion had been received by people at risk of losing their homes and landlords at risk of losing their properties.

Somehow, the fact that an answer already exists, has gotten lost in the shuffle. States and localities scrambling to develop pathways to disburse rental assistance funds should turn to the national network of Community Action Agencies such as ABCD – and other housing nonprofits – which have such programs in place to serve those in need quickly, efficiently and effectively.

That’s one crisis that we can immediately mitigate. Our municipal, state, and national leaders can tap into this ready infrastructure and model it to address the country’s most pressing concerns.