Richmond mother of 6 evicted after COVID-19 job loss: 'It’s been a rough road'

Posted at 7:23 PM, Jul 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-11 19:23:49-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- For the last three months, Rhonda Smith has been without a job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We did a leave of absence there and during that period I was terminated from my job," Smith said.

The Richmond mother of six said she doesn’t have a way to provide for her family.

“During the process, I’ve lost my home, my car, and just had to go and stay with family members. So it’s been a rough road," Smith said.

Smith said she made countless attempts to get unemployment benefits from the Virginia Employment Commission, but she hasn’t heard back.

Steve Fischbach, Litigation Director, with Virginia Poverty Law Center, said Smith isn’t alone. Thousands of people have either lost their homes or are on the verge of being homeless because the state shutdown to combat COVID-19 left them unable to work.

“When you include this week and then seven weeks out, statewide there are 11,000 cases scheduled to be heard across the state," Fischbach said.

An eviction ban was put in place in March to help during the pandemic. But it was lifted last month.

Over 100 people protestedoutside the John Marshall Courthouse in Richmond on Thursday in opposition to the resumption of eviction hearings

Fischbach believes the ripple effects will continue to impact renters through the end of the year. He encourages people to reach out to the Governor and request another eviction ban.

"The moratorium allows people to apply for rent relief but that money that’s available is not yet even hitting the street but even when it does, 15 million dollars won’t last very long," Fischbach added.

CBS 6 reached out to Governor Northam’s office for comment on the decision to use his executive power to reimpose such a moratorium and his spokesperson wrote back, “An executive order would likely raise legal complexities that would tie the case up in court and keep much-needed relief from Virginians.”

Meanwhile, Smith is just hoping she can get some answers and help soon.

“Something, some type of income, somebody if you got a job to offer me, anything," Smith said. "I’m willing, more than willing. I just want to get my family back together, find housing for me and my kids and be back together as a family.”

CBS 6 also asked how many people have benefited from the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program.

A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Developmentsaid that through Thursday, July 3 there had been over 45,000 hits to the program’s eligibility portal, where people check to see if they qualify for assistance, and added other Virginians have heard “directly through local outreach of the organizations administering the program locally/regionally or through calling 2-1-1.”

They added they will have a full reporting update from their “network of grantees” by the end of business on July 10 and that will be made available on July 13.

The City of Richmond is also using $6-million of its CARES Act funding to go towards the Eviction Diversion Program and rental assistance.

Fischbach adds that those in need can call 833-NOEVICT for assistance.