Gov. Ralph Northam answered questions at a press conference Aug. 5.
With a temporary freeze on evictions scheduled to end and thousands of cases mounting on court dockets around the state, Virginia is steering $4 million toward legal assistance for tenants at risk of losing their homes, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday.
The infusion for the Legal Services Corporation of Virginia will pay for 20 attorneys over the next two years. Having representation from a Legal Aid lawyer can more than double a tenant’s chance of having a “successful outcome” to their eviction case, the governor’s office said in a release.
“Our Commonwealth faced an eviction crisis before COVID-19 arrived in early March, and the ongoing global pandemic is making this problem even worse,” Northam stated in a release.
More than 55,000 eviction cases were filed in the state from January to July. About one out of three resulted in an eviction judgment, according to the RVA Eviction Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University. The lab’s analysis found as many as 262,000 households across the state were at risk of eviction in August.
Northam’s announcement comes as state leaders are weighing how to stem a rising tide of eviction filings fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has pushed thousands of households to the brink of eviction because of job and wage losses.
As state lawmakers have convened for a special session of the General Assembly to take up policing reforms and other pressing matters, advocates have called for more robust protections for tenants.