Renters still being evicted despite CDC ban – National & International News – FRI 12Fri2021

Sheila Ambert sits on the floor of the now-empty apartment from which she is being evicted.

Renters still being evicted despite ban. Cities adopt new approach on mental health crisis calls. COVID variants will “sweep the world”…That and more below.


Renters still being evicted despite CDC ban

Last year, the CDC issued a ban on evictions during the pandemic. The ban has been effective in many cases, and may have prevented as many as 250,000 evictions since last year. However, shoddy enforcement and inconsistent application mean that many renters are being forced out regardless.

One of the many drawbacks of the ban is that renters must know about the order and how to use it. While as many as 90% of landlord’s have legal representation in eviction cases, fewer than 10% of tenants do. This means many tenants have no one to inform them of their rights under the ban, and what they have to do to qualify.

Even in many cases where renters are aware of the ban, there are many loopholes that landlords and their attorneys can exploit. The ban does set out punishment for landlords who push out qualified tenants, including fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars and even jail time. But these punishments have almost never been enforced.

Advocates are calling for a blanket eviction ban and greater oversight to protect beleaguered renters. The December COVID stimulus package has also promised $25 billion in rental assistance. But this money has been slow to reach the people who need it.

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Denver sends mental health workers to 100s of 911 calls instead of police

According to a Washington Post database, police dispatched to mental health calls have fatally shot nearly 1,400 people with mental illnesses since 2015. Several cities across the country are adopting a community-centered approach to address the problem. Some have set up pilot programs to dispatch community aid and mental health workers to emergency calls instead of police.

In Denver, the Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) pilot program has directed mental health calls to two-person teams with a medic and a clinician. The teams answer calls related to mental health, depression, poverty, homelessness, or substance abuse issues. Since June last year, the STAR program has successfully answered 748 mental health calls in the past year. None of these calls required law enforcement assistance, and none ended in arrests. A report found that an expansion of the Star program could reduce police calls in Denver by nearly 3%.

The STAR program emulates the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) program in Eugene, Oregon. CAHOOTS was created in 1989. In 2017, CAHOOTS answered 17% of the Eugene Police Department’s overall call volume.

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COVID variants set to “sweep the world”

Experts say more contagious and possibly more lethal variants of the coronavirus may soon be the dominant COVID infections worldwide. The UK variant, which emerged late last year in the English county of Kent, is 70% more contagious and perhaps 30% deadlier than the original COVID virus. It now accounts for 90% of all COVID cases in the UK and has spread to more than 80 countries worldwide.

The South African COVID variant is even more contagious than the UK variant, but it is unclear whether it is more lethal. One of the major vaccines in circulation from AstraZeneca has been found to be far less effective in protecting against it. South Africa is now pinning its hope on a new vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

Another new variant has emerged in the Amazonian region of Brazil. Experts say this variant is 3 times as contagious as original COVID. Like the South African variant, the Brazil variant has a mutation on its spike protein, which may make it more resistant to existing vaccines.

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US lawmakers push foreign allies to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia

Last week, the Biden Administration announced that the US would no longer support Saudi Arabia’s offensive war in Yemen. The 6-year conflict between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels has devastated the already poverty stricken country. Aid groups estimate that as much as 80% of Yemen’s population of 30 million now depend on aid for bare survival. The UN has recently warned that as many as 400,000 Yemeni children under 5 could starve to death this year.

US lawmakers, including Democrat Ron Wyden, are calling on foreign US allies to follow Biden’s lead. Shortly after Biden announced the end of US support, the UK government approved a $1.4 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia. The State Department so far has not weighed in or made any official appeal to allies to halt Saudi weapons sales.

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