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Federal eviction protection ends same time as $600 jobless benefit

The federal eviction moratorium is set to expire Friday while Congress debates a benefits extension.

HOUSTON — It was the last call for bartender Travis Webb’s livelihood when Texas nightclubs had to close for the second time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I only got approved for $69 a week,” Webb said.

Thankfully, the federal government supplemented weekly state benefits by $600.

But, as the Texas Workforce Commission is constantly reminding recipients on social media, that is coming to an end unless Congress acts.

"So, with the $600 going away, I literally do not have a living wage whatsoever," Webb said. "And I’m not really sure what to do.”

Unemployed renters may be doubly concerned since a federal moratorium on evictions is also set to expire. It applies to properties backed by U.S. government loans, which applies to some 43 million apartments across the country. Other evictions have been able to proceed in Texas since mid-May.

"We’re falling through the cracks," said renter Raymond Smith. "There’s a lot of us that are trying to get rent paid.”

Smith came to an unemployment office to try and find some work so he can keep paying rent.

"Now that the COVID pandemic has come, those of us who were able to go out and hustle up a little money here and there to make ends meet haven’t been able to do it,” Smith said.

The Metropolitan Organization and the Houston Apartment Association sent a joint letter Thursday to members of Congress requesting $100 billion in rental assistance nationwide.

Advocates believe that Houston neighborhoods hit hard by evictions are also COVID-19 hot spots.

"And so people evicted and moving in with other people are compounding their liability to COVID by creating more density,” said TMO's Bob Fleming.

Webb said he’s looked for other jobs and gets the argument that people can’t live on benefits forever. He was relieved his landlord has been flexible, so far.

“I just wish that they would figure out a better way for us to open safely to where we could all get back to work,” Webb said.

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