Gov. Steve Sisolak answers questions from the press after giving an update on Nevada’s COVID-19 response efforts at the Grant Sawyer State Office Building on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020, in Las Vegas. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Process servers armed with stacks of eviction notices for Nevada renters will have to wait now that Gov. Steve Sisolak is extending the state’s moratorium on evictions for 45 days.
The moratorium was to end Tuesday but Sisolak said the backlog of unpaid unemployment benefits, the failure of the state’s courts to establish rules for mediating evictions, and delays in distributing rental assistance payments to landlords prompted him to extend it.
“At a time when it’s 108 degrees out and people are struggling to get by, and we don’t have the federal resolution to unemployment that’s been promised coming forward, I just thought it was in the best interest,” Sisolak said of extending the moratorium.
He’s also adding $10 million to rent assistance, bringing the total of programs administered by the state and counties to $50 million, according to Sisolak.
“No matter what decision I make, people are critical of the decision,” Sisolak said at a news conference Monday evening in Las Vegas. “We worked tirelessly to try to work this out without having an extension.”
The Guinn Center estimates a quarter of a million Nevadans could be at risk of eviction.
“We do not want Nevadans getting evicted while awaiting resolution of their (unemployment) case,” Sisolak said, noting some 5,000 applicants are expected to be paid by the state this week.
The governor also voiced disappointment in the failure of the courts to craft rules for an alternative dispute resolution program approved by lawmakers in a special session this summer, but expects the program to be operating by the end of September.
“It is critical that landlords and tenants continue to work together,” he said.
Sisolak said justice courts are ill-equipped, given the pandemic, to process in-court eviction filings, and he acknowledged social service delivery partners feared an onslaught of Nevadans in need of shelter and basic services, should the moratorium be lifted.
“I recognize this time is hard on you, too,” Sisolak said to Nevada’s landlords. “You pay your bills with this money.”
Sisolak said Clark County paid out just $1.7 million of $30 million in rental assistance “before they cut off the program” for fear of over-allocating funds to applicants.
The governor promised the extension of the eviction moratorium would allow state and local agencies to “send money out the door on behalf of Nevada renters.”
The governor did not say whether he was extending the moratorium on foreclosures, which has provided relief to landlords unable to make mortgage payments.
“On behalf of Nevada REALTORS® and our more than 18,000 members throughout the state, we are very disappointed in Gov. Sisolak’s decision today to extend the state’s eviction moratorium for another 45 days.
“Many of these property owners are retirees, people living on fixed incomes and mom-and-pop landlords who own one or two homes and rely on this rental income to support themselves and their families. Many of them will now have no recourse or way to cover their own expenses,” Nevada Association of Realtors president Chris Bishop said in a statement. “To make matters worse, Gov. Sisolak’s decision only gives these property owners less than a day’s notice to determine what to do next.”
Sisolak also announced a new program called “ID Me,” designed to “allow people to verify their identity so they can quickly connect with benefits,” but did not provide details.
Sisolak said the number of COVID-19 cases in Nevada is declining but noted the approach of the three-day Labor Day weekend.
“Now is not the time to let up. Now is the time to do more,” he said, warning against large backyard barbecues.
Cases of COVID-19 in Nevada spiked within weeks of Memorial Day and Independence Day.
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