April 1 brings another COVID-19 concern – rent is due. With restrictions shuttering businesses and putting thousands out of work across Western North Carolina, non-profit organizations that provide housing and other support services are seeing an increase in calls from residents concerned about rent and mortgage payments.
“Our advice is to prioritize rent as best you can, to seek out emergency assistance,” said Jackie Kiger with Pisgah Legal Services who added that effective March 16, North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued an order halting eviction and foreclosure court hearings for 30 days. “Right now we’d advise people to apply for financial assistance, they can also call us and we might be able to help, perhaps negotiating with the landlord.” Kiger says Pisgah Legal Services is continuing to serve clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, March 31, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive to prohibit utility companies from shutting off services to people who are unable to pay. Executive order 124 states that electric, gas, water and wastewater services cannot be shut off for the next 60 days. It also encourages banks not to charge customers overdraft fees, late fees and other penalties.
Gov. Cooper said during the Tuesday news briefing that telecommunications companies that provide phone, cable and internet services are “strongly urged to follow these same rules.”
NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. announced that families who receive Food and Nutrition Services will begin receiving an increase in benefits to help them access food during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency Operations Director Mike Sprayberry says residents can also dial 211 with questions about food assistance and help paying rent & utilities.
During the briefing NC Attorney General Josh Stein noted that over the last two weeks, NC businesses have laid off 300,000 people.