JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three days before Christmas, Jacksonville ophthalmic assistant Heavenly Carter, 45, received another eviction notice. It was her third in three months.
Carter had her hours reduced in April at the medical practice where she’s employed. Then she caught COVID-19 in July. Carter described learning that patients tested positive and were hospitalized weeks after they visited the practice.
“It was very scary, and not only that, we were having employees testing positive,” Carter said. “And then I got it.”
Carter has since tested negative for the coronavirus, but doctors still have not cleared her to return to work due to lingering effects. Doctor’s notes describe “post-COVID fatigue, shortness of breath and lack of stamina that is typical of the illness.” Carter said doctors also have found inflammation around her heart and lungs.
Carter drained her savings and money donated by neighbors trying to keep up with rental payments. In October, after four months out of work, she missed paying rent. Carter now owes her landlord more than $2,400 in back rent.
She described trying to sign up for Jacksonville’s rent and mortgage relief program, only to find it covers those who owe rent or mortgage payments from April through October -- months she’d already paid.
“There is no help for health care workers or people like me,” Carter said.
Experts describe a looming rental crisis if there’s not significant intervention. In Jacksonville, there have been 43% fewer evictions filed in Duval County courts during 2020 than in 2019 -- partly because Florida’s executive order banning landlords from filing eviction notices in court from April to July.
But data also shows eviction filings surged after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis altered his order to allow landlords to begin eviction filings in court. After changing the order, landlords in Jacksonville filed 13 times more evictions in August than the previous month. DeSantis eventually allowed the order to expire completely.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium is the only policy blocking renters facing eviction due to the pandemic from being removed from their homes. The moratorium was set to expire at the end of 2020 but was extended to the end of January after Congress passed the latest COVID-19 stimulus package. The extension is supposed to help ensure millions of renters are not evicted while waiting to receive assistance.
Americans making less than $75,000 are expected to get a second stimulus check for $600. The U.S. Senate has yet to vote on increasing the stimulus check by $1,400.
“It also makes you very depressed because you feel like you don’t have a leg to stand on,” Carter said. “You have worked all your life. You’ve tried your best to do what you could do, to help others, and then in a time of need you need help, there is no one there to help you.”
The CDC moratorium on evictions is not automatic. It requires tenants to sign a declaration that they meet certain requirements.