BOSTON (State House News Service) — With a month left until the state's moratorium on evictions and foreclosures is due to expire, Cardinal Sean O'Malley and the bishops of the Catholic dioceses of Worcester, Fall River and Springfield are speaking up in support of the legislation that would extend those tenant protections into 2021 and potentially longer.
O'Malley and Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Bishop Edgar Moreira da Cunha of Fall River and Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of Springfield wrote a letter last week to the chairs of the House and Senate Rules Committees, Sen. Joan Lovely of Salem and Rep. William Galvin of Canton.
The bishops are supporting bills filed by Reps. Mike Connolly and Kevin Honan and Sen. Patricia Jehlen that would extend the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for one year after the governor lifts the current state of emergency. The bills would also freeze rents over the same time period and allow small landlords owning up to 15 units to defer mortgage payments until the end of the mortgage if they lose income due to COVID-19. The current moratorium expires Aug. 18.
"Our most vulnerable residents would suffer physical, economic and emotional hardships that would have immeasurable effects on their quality of life. Homelessness would spike to unprecedented levels. Our poorest communities would disproportionately suffer the most if the legislature does not act before the end of the formal session," wrote James Driscoll, the head of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, which speaks for the four bishops.
Housing advocates have estimated that as many as 20,000 eviction notices could be served in August if the moratorium is allowed to expire. Under the law passed in April, Gov. Charlie Baker has the authority to extend the current moratorium for 90 days at a time, but has not yet announced a decision.
Driscoll said the virus has disproportionately infected communities of color where many of the state's frontline health care and service industry employees who have continued to work throughout the pandemic live.
"We must be grateful for what they have done - not support a system that would abandon them and eventually lead them to homelessness. This is a matter of economic and racial justice that cannot be ignored," he said.
By Matt Murphy, State House News Service
(Photo: Getty Images)