Indiana eviction, utility shutoff moratoriums end next week

Indiana residents who have struggled to pay rent or utility bills during the coronavirus pandemic have one more week before the state’s protections against evictions and utility shutoffs end, despite a recent analysis that found that more than 40% of the state’s renters are unable to pay their rent.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday that he intends to allow the state’s rental property eviction moratorium and its ban on disconnecting utility services to expire on Aug. 14.

The Republican governor’s decision comes after Congress failed to extend the $600 per week supplemental unemployment insurance payment that goes to many of the 11.2% of Hoosiers currently out of work.

Holcomb said Hoosiers who are behind on their bills should immediately contact their landlords or utilities to work out payment plans, or reach out to state agencies for assistance in getting caught up on their payments.

“We do have programs, and funding and resources to help residents who are in need and who qualify for funding,” the governor said. “I want that to be crystal clear that if you are in need, we are here.”

To boost those efforts, Holcomb said the state is adding another $15 million to the $25 million already available to Hoosier tenants through Indiana’s Rental Assistance Portal or by calling 317-800-6000.

The governor’s office said that more than 24,000 Indiana renters already have applied for the financial assistance that’s paid directly to their landlords.

Statewide, an estimated 44% of rental households are unable to pay rent and are at risk of eviction, according to a July 31 analysis by the investment banking company Stout Risius Ross, LLC.

The state court system is preparing to launch a free settlement facilitation program to promote housing stability by having landlords and tenants negotiate payment agreements before a neutral third party, instead of following the traditional eviction process in front of a judge.

Nevertheless, housing advocates expect a surge of evictions and foreclosures to be filed in Indiana trial courts when the moratorium is lifted.

Residents who need utility payment assistance have fewer options, because the application deadline for Indiana’s 2020 Energy Assistance Program was July 31 and applications for the 2021 program won’t be available until at least September, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority said.

State officials recommend that people who are about to lose their utility services should call 211 to potentially be connected to local social services agencies that may be able to provide temporary assistance.

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