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Erin Meechan of Gresham is urging Oregon's lawmakers to extend the moratorium on evictions. The topic will be discussed during the upcoming special session, scheduled Monday, Dec. 21.

ERIN MEECHANFor people like me, the moratorium against evictions has been an essential lifeline. During COVID-19, as we are all being told to stay home to stay safe, those of us who rent our homes have been living on edge as the pandemic has stretched on and on.

Our state has done an amazing job preventing a new wave of homeless children, families and individuals during COVID, as jobs have been cut or hours reduced, federal dollars have dried up and unemployment insurance is ending.

That's the situation I am in. I have a good job with UPS, but I am not able to work right now because I need a hip replacement. My employer has been supportive and would take me back in a heartbeat but because I lost health care coverage I had to start over with a new provider through the Oregon Health Plan, and as we know, so much of health care has been delayed because they need the hospital beds for COVID patients.

My landlord has also been supportive, but he can only do that for so long.

So here I am with three teenage girls doing their school at home, hoping that we can hang on until we can get on the other side of things.

But while COVID-19 certainly won't be ending on Dec. 31, the eviction moratorium will, unless lawmakers take action and fast.

While most renters have been keeping up with their payments, as the pandemic rages on, it's getting harder to make the monthly rent. In the most recent Pulse Survey by the U.S. Census, 23% of renters said they had no or low confidence they could make next month's payment.

That means come January they can be evicted, even though in Multnomah County they have until July 1 to make up back rent. Outside of Multnomah County, the reality is even worse, because they have fewer protections and people have less or no time to make up back rent depending on the month it occurred.

The idea that state lawmakers would let these evictions happen is unbearable. Our state leaders have a moral imperative to stop the coming eviction by extending the moratorium and providing assistance for landlords to help with the back rent. Renters do not deserve to pay a lifetime of costs if we have fallen behind during this difficult time and neither do our children.

But that's exactly what will happen if lawmakers don't step up. People will have a permanent eviction on their record, making it more difficult to find anywhere to live.

The education of our children will be thrown into disarray, making the hardest school year in memory even harder still, leaving us scrambling to find a place with internet connection and a quiet enough place to study.

And in a pandemic, the worst thing would be for people to double up by moving in with relatives or friends or be forced into already overcrowded shelters — assuming they could even find an opening.

Oregon's renting families have hung on this long. Please, lawmakers, don't give up on us. Vote to extend the moratorium during the special session and provide rental assistance. Before it's too late.

Erin Meechan, 45, of Gresham, is a mother of three. She advocates for housing and social justice policy reforms through Home Forward committees and communicating with local and state legislators.

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