GOP leaders should move legislation to stop eviction proceedings on working people during a state of emergency

As House lawmakers prepare to return to voting session on Tuesday, Sept. 1, it’s a good time to take stock.

The legislature was able to accomplish a lot and in bipartisan cooperation in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. We worked together for several weeks to set up financial programs, resources, and health and safety protections for people, businesses and our healthcare infrastructure.

Now, not so much. As the summer wears on, bipartisan cooperation has given way to political posturing, effectively shutting down any kind of additional supports and protections for the people we as a collective body are meant to serve. And, that has put us on the eve of another crisis.

In a few short days, scores of working people who lost their jobs as result of the COVID-19 pandemic and others will have a new burden to bear. Gov. Tom Wolf’s moratorium on evictions is set to expire on Monday, Aug. 31, and he is prohibited from renewing it with executive powers beyond that date.

The legislature can and must step in. Legislation (H.B. 2404) I have introduced with Allegheny County Democratic state Rep. Summer Lee is critical for giving working families a measure of security in the continuing COVID-19 health crisis. It can be voted on at any time. The only force stopping it is the majority party in Harrisburg.

Under the legislation, people who are unemployed, separated from their employment or unable to find employment when an epidemic or pandemic requires the governor to declare a state of disaster emergency would be exempt from eviction.

I think we all can agree that people whole lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and cannot find another, also due to the pandemic, do not magically become OK after the expiration of protections they needed in March and still need today. Families and individuals are stressed enough from the ongoing uncertainty of the COVID-19 health crisis; they should not have the added burden of fearing they won’t have a roof over their heads.

It is our responsibility as elected lawmakers to protect people, especially under the extraordinary circumstances we’re living under. Unfortunately, Republican leaders in Harrisburg have been too focused on ending the governor’s disaster emergency declaration, which incidentally would put the state at risk of losing federal pandemic funding, rather than helping working people who are without a paycheck.

Lawmakers must turn away from partisan measures that won’t go anywhere and toward real and lasting support for people in need. My legislation is just one bill that would accomplish that goal, and I am asking those who are in control of the legislative calendar to start bringing it and others like it forward. I invite all Pennsylvanians to join me.